11 Mistakes People Make When Trying to Sell Refinished Furniture

You’ve spent hours cleaning, repairing, and prepping that thrifted dresser.  Then even more of your precious time refinishing it and perfecting the final look.  When it’s finally finished, you hope to sell the furniture makeover to an eager buyer and make a nice profit.  

You post a listing, but the dresser sits and waits… weeks pass and you get nibbles but no serious inquiries.  What gives??  How can you sell refinished furniture more quickly, for the price you deserve?

11 Mistakes People Make When Trying to Sell Refinished Furniture (and what to do instead) - Girl in the Garage

I may not be an expert, but in five+ years of upcycling and selling furniture makeovers, I’ve learned quite a lot.  There could be many reasons why your piece isn’t selling; here are 11 tips for what not to do when trying to sell refinished furniture (and what to do instead!).



Not starting with a quality piece.  You can be the best repairer and painter in the world, but if you’re planning to refinish a cheap plastic bookcase from Wal-Mart, you can’t expect to sell it for a small fortune.  Look for pieces that are made from real wood and have the most potential to turn a profit.  If you aren’t good at repairs and don’t have many tools available for use, then buy pieces that don’t have structural damage. Bonus: Want my printable cheat sheet for what types of furniture are the best to buy for flipping (and what to avoid)? Click Here.


Bad staging.  If you’re posting photos of your pieces online, you need to stage it well.  Invest in some simple inexpensive props like hardcover books, empty frames, vases and flowers, classic artwork.  You may also need a backdrop if you don’t have a light-colored wall to photograph against, and maybe a rug or a section of wood-look flooring if your space has concrete or otherwise ugly floors.  Also, be careful of colors used in staging – use compliments and not distractions.  If your piece is neutral, add a pop of color with flowers in a vase.  Stage the piece to give potential buyers an idea of how they could use it in their own homes.

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Bad photography.  Beautiful, scroll-stopping photos will help you sell refinished furniture.  The number 1 problem most people have with photography is usually lighting.  Make sure the room is well lit with natural light if possible (you may want to invest in a light kit if you’re lacking in natural light).  You want to avoid shadows or harsh brightness.  Also, hold the camera very still to avoid blurriness (a tripod is helpful for shaky hands).  Take photos straight-on or at a slight angle to the left or right, but try to stay eye-level with the center of the piece.  Don’t have the camera pointed up or down toward it.  Also, include more than one photo if you have special details that deserve their own beauty shot (1-4 photos is good).  **Below are 4 photos from my local Facebook for sale group that I found in about 10 minutes…  (I’m not critiquing the items themselves, just commenting on the photography – and no, I haven’t done any editing on these.)

This could be a beautiful piece, but the photo is so dark that it’s hard to see anything!

This photo is so blurry – remember to keep your hand still or use a tripod. Also, you may want to crop out any “dead space” like the extra flooring and wall above.

What to avoid and tips to sell refinished furniture - Girl in the Garage

Be aware of things that could be a distraction in the background, like this trash can.

This isn’t a refinished piece, but I wanted to comment because the angle is crazy high. Remember to try to stay centered with the piece (which may require kneeling down), or just slightly above if you want to show off the top of the table.


The piece is too custom.  Painting is art, and many painters stand out from the crowd for their custom work and have much success.  But if your piece isn’t selling, and every other element in this list is right on target, then it might be too custom.  You can either wait for that one perfect buyer who will fall madly in love with your neon orange stenciled buffet, or it might be time to rethink your design.  The choice is yours.  In general, neutral pieces work in most homes and often sell faster.  You have to decide (and maybe experiment with the buyers in your market) to determine where is the intersection of artistic creativity and salability.


Only listing your item in one place.  There are SO many places to sell refinished furniture – don’t limit yourself to one or two listings.  You need to go find your perfect buyer, chances are they won’t just find you.  Join as many local (or semi-local) Facebook selling groups as you can and list on sales apps (beware of scams though!) – I’ve known some people who will list something dozens of different places.  (Have you considered selling your pieces in a store or at a vintage market?  Learn more here.)


Not writing a well thought out, descriptive ad.  Use keywords people might be searching for (farmhouse, rustic, industrial, storage, etc.) and use proper spelling (it’s a “dining” table, not “dinning”).  If your piece is a well known name brand, say so.  If you know some history of your piece (it was built in the 1920s), say so.  Include the dimensions and any other pertinent details that people wouldn’t know just from looking at the photos.  Suggest other uses – that your buffet can also be used as a TV console – show people the potential uses in their own home.


Pricing too high.  You deserve to be paid what you’re worth, and for all the time, effort, and supply expenses you put into redoing the piece.  Pay attention to what others are charging for similar pieces, and price yours even a little higher.  But if you start way too high, people may be put off immediately.  Test out the market with a piece or two and don’t be afraid to let it sit a few weeks before restaging/rephotographing or lowering the price by 10-15%.


Pricing too low (undervaluing yourself, not enough room for profit, or lowering too quickly).  You can always lower a high price, but you can’t raise a low price.  If your pieces are selling very quickly, if people are commenting on your ad that you should be charging more, or if you’re barely making any profit, stop what you’re doing and reevaluate.  Raise your prices.  You are worth it!  If brand new plain boring dressers are selling for hundreds of dollars at furniture stores, why on earth are you only charging $80 for your hand-painted, one-of-a-kind, real wood dresser?  Your potential profit is flying out the window, and you’re doing yourself and all the other furniture painters near you a disservice by encouraging low price expectations from buyers.  Just don’t do it.


Only accepting cash as payment.  Cash is king, but there are other ways to accept payment that are convenient and easy to use.  Think electronic payments, not checks.  (From my experience working in banking for 10 years, do not accept a check.  It’s too risky.  Even cashier’s checks can be faked.)  Square and PayPal are good options, and there are probably others.  And definitely receive your payment in advance if you’ve agreed to deliver the furniture to the buyer!


Not offering delivery.  What stops most buyers from purchasing furniture, besides price?  Lifting and transportation.  Remove that barrier and it will be much easier to make the sale.  Borrow a truck or SUV.  Bring your spouse, friend, or hire a couple college students to help.  Wrap the piece so it doesn’t get damaged in transit, get your payment before making the trip, and yes charge extra for delivery.


Not keeping in touch or asking for a referral.  Once you make a sale, keep in touch with your buyer.  Ask them to Like your Facebook page so they can see what else you’re working on, or follow you on Instagram.  Leave some business cards with them and ask for referrals.  Happy customers love to brag about their custom furniture (and excellent customer service) and you can gain a lot of new clients that way.  Message or email them in a couple months to see if there’s anything else they’re looking for or needs refinished.

Click here for my bonus printable Cheat Sheet:  The best types of furniture to buy to flip and make a profit (and which kinds to avoid!)

The Best Types of Furniture to Buy to Flip for Profit (and which types to avoid!)

I’d love it if you shared this post with your creative friends who sell refinished furniture – it’s quick and easy to click the Facebook or Pinterest buttons on the side of the page.  Thanks so much!


You might also like this article…

7 Pricing Tips for Selling Refinished Furniture

Pricing Tips for Selling Refinished Furniture - Girl in the Garage

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31 Comments on 11 Mistakes People Make When Trying to Sell Refinished Furniture

  1. Candyce Blodgett
    January 18, 2017 at 12:28 pm (2 years ago)

    Excellent advice!! I’m going to use ALL of it. Thanks!

    • Jen
      January 20, 2017 at 9:25 pm (2 years ago)

      Thanks so much, Candyce – and good luck! I’m so glad you found it helpful.

    • Tasha
      August 14, 2018 at 3:04 pm (7 months ago)

      Best article I have read on this topic! Thanks!

  2. Robyn
    January 18, 2017 at 1:44 pm (2 years ago)

    Great tips Jen! Pinned

  3. Bonnie
    January 18, 2017 at 2:41 pm (2 years ago)

    Just wanted to let you know that I think this piece is so well written. Lots of good advice and pictures to boot.

    • Jen
      January 20, 2017 at 9:25 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you, Bonnie – I appreciate it! I don’t know why I was nervous to publish it. 🙂

  4. Cheryl
    January 18, 2017 at 4:07 pm (2 years ago)

    Great ideas!! I need to work on my photography and background and where I list it!! Thank you!
    Cheryl recently posted…Taking a breakMy Profile

    • Jen
      January 20, 2017 at 9:24 pm (2 years ago)

      Thank you, Amy! Glad you liked it. 🙂

  5. Rose Arroyo
    January 18, 2017 at 10:29 pm (2 years ago)

    Thank You for your great advice and showing examples.

    • Jen
      January 20, 2017 at 9:23 pm (2 years ago)

      So true- it’s such a distraction!

  6. Sara
    January 21, 2017 at 11:00 pm (2 years ago)

    You hit so many important points! I have been refinishing and selling furniture for years and have to say I whole-heartedly agree with all of these.

    Whenever I get multiple inquiries about a piece within a day or two, I know I priced it too low.

    Researching craigslist to look at similar items for sale and how much they cost in your area can usually help you set a good price.

    This is great advice for anyone to know before they start flipping furniture.

  7. Dean Rollinson-Mcmorrow
    February 1, 2017 at 12:27 pm (2 years ago)

    What a great piece! I’m currently eyeing up an oak cabinet!

    I’m going to be sure I’ll dress it up to sell on! Since I just got my car (Mariah) I can offer delivery.


  8. Sheryl
    April 9, 2017 at 12:48 pm (2 years ago)

    Dinning. One of my all-time pet peeves!

    • Jen
      April 10, 2017 at 9:22 pm (2 years ago)

      Yessss! Amen to that.

  9. Val
    September 8, 2017 at 9:45 pm (2 years ago)

    Love the tip about charging too little. I did that when I 1st started. I actually think it is only fair when you 1st start since you are likely to make a descent amount of mistakes. But it is one of my big pet peeves when other “makers” devalue their own time because it also devalues my time as well as any other maker out there.

    • Jen
      September 12, 2017 at 5:53 pm (2 years ago)

      Yes, so true! Thank you for your comment Val.

  10. TrishaA
    February 6, 2018 at 5:02 pm (1 year ago)

    I thought I knew what the problem was and I was right. I repurposed a 1980’s drab Broyhill dresser in silver. It is beautiful and priced to sell at $185. NO interest what so ever although e1 loved the staged photo and the quality work. Ty for confirming what I did not want to accept. I am going to put it in my home.

  11. Karen Ann Ormes
    July 1, 2018 at 3:08 pm (9 months ago)

    Hello Jen, Have a daughter named Jen who loves shabby chic redos and who, incidentally, looks very much like you! She’s a top techie for a hospital system and in her off-time does simple redos for her own home. Thank you for your excellent hints on what not to do when attempting to sell one’s creatively redone furniture! Have only one dual question: What is the hottest piece of furniture that sells as a redo and what piece would you avoid at all costs? Thanks in advance. Karen PS: Guessing “dinning”? anything is a bit too much of a ha ha… ❤️

    • Jen, Girl in the Garage
      July 2, 2018 at 10:10 pm (9 months ago)

      That is too funny! 🙂 To answer your question, benches with backs/arms always sell very fast for me. Unfortunately it’s also really hard to find them for a good price, so I don’t get to work on a lot of them. Old converted radio cabinets do well. Dressers usually do well too – every bedroom needs one, and people are even using them as entertainment centers or in foyers these days! It’s really hard to answer what to avoid – typically I avoid cheaply made pieces, anything with a lot of warped areas (temperature/water issues), and pieces that have very strong musty odors. I hope that helps some!

      • Karen Ann Ormes
        July 3, 2018 at 8:44 am (9 months ago)

        Thank you, Jen! Very helpful information! On a further note of humor …Years ago, my hubby and I were knee-deep in paint removal w/harsh chems and heat gun—the worst job imaginable —stripping white lead paint off of the heavy, original frame around a very early, large rectangular curved, 3-part English stained glass treasure. Took a year. Bought at auction for $75.00 in the 80’s, then the husband dropped it last year while unchaining it in breezeway to protect from bad upcoming storm—costing us $250 for professional repair. I wanted to strangle him! xo Yikes! Today, the original look of old white lead paint would have been perfect! In the 80’s, we stained it medium brown and tung-oiled it… How quaint we were in the day! Thanks again! Thinking about redoing some of our garage wonders to match today’s style. Look forward to seeing more of your great redos! Karen PS: No need to use your valuable time to respond. Happy Refurbishing! k.

  12. Cathy
    August 13, 2018 at 4:44 am (7 months ago)

    Thanks for sharing your information. . I have just started to refurbishing furniture. I have several pieces to refurbish.

  13. Maury Otto
    December 13, 2018 at 4:09 pm (3 months ago)

    Huge turn off is painting over hardware instead of removing beforehand

    • Jen, Girl in the Garage
      December 13, 2018 at 6:32 pm (3 months ago)

      Yeah, that makes it almost impossible for new owners to ever change the hardware without repainting the whole thing…

  14. Sandra
    January 6, 2019 at 6:49 pm (2 months ago)

    You are so right!! I’d go to these posh farmhouse chalk paint shops selling a cheap furniture (no dove tails drawers stick) piece with a thin slap of chalk paint for top dollar. I had a garage full of Amish made furniture painful from my divorce…studied techniques and brought the renewed pieces back into my home. I’ve also found quality pieces that just need TLC… question… are customers in the market who are looking for quality furniture repurposed with great care and not a slap of cheap chalk paint?

    • Jen, Girl in the Garage
      January 8, 2019 at 1:18 pm (2 months ago)

      Good for you, Sandra! There are customers who will pay more for good quality furniture, but they may be harder to find. Unfortunately some buyers just want whatever option is cheapest. You may need to market outside your area if you have trouble finding people who will pay your asking price. Try out a few pieces and see how it goes for you. Best of luck!

  15. Becky
    February 28, 2019 at 9:08 am (3 weeks ago)

    Excellent points! I’m pinning this one! Thanks!

  16. tina shackleford
    March 11, 2019 at 9:09 am (1 week ago)

    This is a great article and so helpful. I sell my items in a shop near me and I think it is important for the seller to remember that when approaching a shop owner always think how thrilled they are to find you. Shop owners just love finding new chic items for their shops. If you make money, they make money.


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