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Flea Market Treasure-Finding Tips

September 3, 2013 6:00 AM

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(credit: FleaPop)

(credit: FleaPop)

(credit: Liz Laing)

(credit: Liz Laing)

We spoke with Ross Resnick, founder of FleaPop (an on-line virtual flea market for home décor and furnishings) to get his advice on what’s the best way to have a successful flea market experience. If you’re tired of the same old furniture and décor, visit a flea market and go shopping for unique pieces and have fun putting together a “new” room.

Some of our favorite local flea market vendors are: Go Mod Retro, Restored Luxury by Ysaguirre Upholstery, JW Antiques and MFEO. Our favorite flea markets are: Fairfax, Rosebowl, Long Beach Antique Show, and the Downtown Flea (the newest market). Keep in mind that you can always beat the heat and shop on-line at FleaPop, 24/7.

FleaPop has more than 220 shops and $1 million of inventory, and growing every day. They welcome both sellers and buyers on their site. The only requirements are that items have to be home décor or furniture and the minimum list price is $25 (some are upwards of $10,000). When you want to get out into the world and visit a few different flea markets, keep these tips in mind:

(credit: FleaPop)

(credit: FleaPop)

Tip 1: Have A Plan

 
Arrive at the flea market with an outline in mind. Writing down a list of the items you need helps to avoid buying a lot of things that you don’t need. Think of it as a planned grocery store visit, only a little more creative. Make sure that when you go into the flea market that you have some expectations and goals that you want to achieve.

(credit: Liz Laing)

(credit: Liz Laing)

Tip 2: Know Your Budget And Bring Cash

 
A lot of vendors at a flea market only take cash, which can be a disadvantage. But the advantage is that if they only take cash, you can budget a certain amount and only bring that much cash.

(credit: FleaPop)

(credit: FleaPop)

Tip 3: Be Prepared To Negotiate

 
Haggling is expected at flea markets, most of the time you never pay full price. Having a budget in mind for each item will help you stick to your plan and not break the bank on any one item. Always know what your bottom line is and counter below. Maybe you’ll meet in the middle and get the item you wanted at a great price.

(credit: FleaPop)

(credit: FleaPop)

Tip 4: Arrive Early

 
This is very important because the best inventory can be gone before 9 a.m. Wake up early and you won’t regret it. Having said that, holding out until later in the day to do the negotiation is actually better for you as a buyer because the sellers don’t want to have to haul their stuff away. So, be prepared for a full-day experience. Also, a great strategy is to start from the back and work your way to the front.

(credit: FleaPop)

(credit: FleaPop)

Tip 5: Do Your Research Ahead Of Time

 
Knowing brands, designers and manufacturers will pay off when you’re shopping around, so you’ll know what an item is worth. Try and have an internet-capable phone at hand. Let’s say you’re shopping and you see an Eames chair that you absolutely love – you can do some price comparisons. If you’re at a flea market, you may get so emotionally involved in the purchase that you forget to look whether it’s a good deal or not.

(credit: FleaPop)

(credit: FleaPop)

Tip 6: Have A Professional Refurbisher On Speed Dial

 
Unless you are super crafty and can DIY with ease, you’ll want to know how much it will cost you to restore or refinish an item so you can factor it into your budget. If you know that you’re going to buy chairs that need re-upholstering, don’t just guess how much the job is going to cost. Have someone ready that can give you an estimate by phone. Otherwise, you’re gong to end up with a fixer-upper that’s going to cost much more than anticipated. Also, make sure you’re prepared to do the “do” part of the DIY. Otherwise, it’ll be an unfinished project that you’ll get to someday.

(credit: FleaPop)

(credit: FleaPop)

Tip 7: Identify Vendors That You Like

 
They might have other inventory somewhere else, just not at the flea market that day. Many of our favorite FleaPop vendors have warehouses full of inventory, but they can only bring so much out at any given time. Identifying a vendor whose style you like is your best bet in finding unseen inventory.

Liz Laing is a writer, web designer and photographer who lives in Los Angeles. Her latest projects may be followed on Liz Laing.

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