Saturday, February 27, 2016

Flea market guide for newbies

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
New to shopping at flea markets? This flea market guide will walk you through from start to finish.

The spring and fall are the hot seasons for flea market shopping at primary and secondary schools. Maybe it's your lucky day and you'll find something really nice! ;-)
A beginner's guide to flea market shopping
A beginner's guide to flea market shopping

Where do you start?

Firstly, where do you find a flea market? An alternative is to look for local flea market events on Facebook. Type "[name of your local area] flea market" and see what pops up :-)

Another way of finding out is to simply use the search engines. Maybe there's a site where they have gathered all the upcoming flea market events in your city?

For my Scandinavian readers who are residing in or visiting Oslo - check out:
Flea markets at

Flea markets at

Do flea markets seem overwhelming? I've been to many flea markets and it really depends on the market how organized it is, and how many people that come to the event. What I probably find more intimidating is the mass. The popular flea markets here in Oslo can receive hundreds of people, and it can be feel a bit like Black Friday.

That's why I always leave the house prepared. You should have a list of items you want to find at the flea market. If you have a mission, you'll probably become more focused and you'll know where to start looking :-)

Trust me, it's better to be prepared this way. At least until you get a hang of it :-)
Flea market guide: Leather bag found at a flea market in Oslo.
Leather bag found at a flea market in Oslo.

Planning on finding furniture? Then remember to bring measurements! If you want to replace a furniture, measure the one you have at home and find something in similar size at the market.

What about transportation? If you're hunting for chairs or a dresser, how are you going to transport it? Maybe you have to call a friend who owns a car?

What is your budget? Have in mind that if you can't find anyone who can transport the furniture you like, you probably need to pay for transportation costs at the flea market.

If the furniture or leather bag needs some work, how much do you think it will cost you?

Seasonal flea markets, organized by schools, normally operate from Saturday to Sunday. The school staff and kids are interested in getting rid of the stuff. If you can postpone your visit to the flea market until Sunday, maybe an hour before closing time, you might have the opportunity to strike a good deal :-)

Ready for some flea market shopping?

1. Always bring cash to a flea market event. Cash is king :-) If you don't have enough cash, ask them to reserve the item and then track the closest ATM.

Another alternative is to transfer money using an app on your smart phone. In Norway, we have such an app called "Vipps" which allows us to send or receive money instantly.

Check out different receive/send money apps at Digital Trends.

2. Flea markets are usually organized in sections. The first thing you should do is to get an overview of the flea market. Where have they placed the furniture? The clothing? The interior stuff?

3. To avoid impulsive purchases, you should look around and get oriented before making a decision. Write down the booth number and the price as you come across items you like. When you're through browsing, return to the items you spotted earlier and offer a price.

If the item is already sold, then it probably wasn't meant to be ;-)

4. When you've found an item, but unsure of its potential: try to look past the dust and dirt :-)

Take your time. Is the sweater too big? Maybe you're handy with the sewing machine and can resize it? Does the wood table have scratches? Maybe you can use a hand plane to get the finish you want, or maybe consider painting the table?

5. Do some quality check. 
  • Any holes or tears in the armpit or in the seams? 
  • Is there any brand? 
  • Any significant damages on the inside of the drawers, or under the table? 
  • How does the weight feel? Solid wood or cheap wood? 
  • For older furniture: Are there any signs of woodworms? (look for several tiny holes under the furniture)
If there are any holes or damages, you might use this to get a fair price from the seller. 

Flea market guide: to good to be true? Always check the wood before you make a purchase.
Flea market guide: too good to be true? Always check the wood before you make a purchase.

I love a good piece of antique or older furniture. But if there are any signs of woodworms, I would probably reconsider. The problem can be treated chemically, but the most worrying part is if there's any wood "left". When they have eaten the wood, they have also weakened the wood structure :-(

6. Try before you buy! Sit in the chair before you make a purchase, check if the table has the right height compared to the chairs you have at home (find a chair at the market that is close to their height), try on the clothes and shoes and etc.

7. Is bargaining a must? Not necessarily. It depends on the item and how many items you buy at the same time. I mean should you bother haggling over a piece of cloth that cost one dollar?

If you're buying a more expensive item or several items, there's more reason to bargain or ask for a good deal.  Don't be shy about asking for a better offer. The sellers are usually used to it :-)

Have in mind that bargaining is about negotiating about a price that both parties feel they're content with.

Continue to read:
10 simple tips on how to thrift shop for clothes and accessories.

How do clothing swaps work?

Have your say about what you just read :)

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