In the past several years, there have been a ton of television shows launched around the idea of selling old stuff for big money — many of them are geared towards the auction scene, but others focus on people who do their buying and selling off the beaten path. “American Pickers,” a show that follows Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they drive across the country in search of stuff-filled barns, out buildings, and basements, looking for items that they’ll be able to resell for considerable profit.
While I enjoy the show because it is entertaining, there are lessons to be learned from these antique hunters for website flippers. Here are the 6 lessons that “American Pickers” teaches us about buying and selling websites.
Pickers Pay Less
Mike and Frank don’t spend their time at auctions or in antique dealerships, hoping against hope that they’ll find a good deal there. The deals aren’t where everyone else is, and they certainly aren’t at places that expect you to pay retail.
While you can occasionally find an undervalued gem at auction, it’s a lot easier to get a good deal pulling a forgotten item out of someone’s overfilled garage. So it is with websites — if you can track down the owners of forgotten websites or sites that could use a bit of rehabbing, you’ll pay significantly less than if you had purchased the same site at auction or through a broker.
You Have to Dig Through a Lot of Garbage to Find Something Great
Picking isn’t easy. Sometimes the guys have to dig through TONS of garbage to find the one item that makes a day of picking worthwhile. If you’ve ever tried to find a good site for sale at a forum like Digital Point, you know this feeling all too well. It’s easy to feel like giving up when the first hundred sites you like at are completely worthless, but that next property could be a pennies on the dollar type of win for you. It pays to get your hands dirty.
Sometimes, the Best Finds Come In the Places You Least Expect
In an episode I remember, Mike was able to buy a great antique sign that was literally half-buried in the ground, face down, covered by a bunch of garbage. I’m not sure what caught his eye enough to dig the thing up, but it turned out to be a great buy.
For website flippers, this might mean visiting forums that are related to certain niches we’re targeting. It’s possible to find people there who are passionate about the topic, own long-established websites but lack the know-how to make their site profitable. That’s a great opportunity to offer them a small sum to cash in on their efforts while leaving lots of room to profit for you.
When You Find a Good Source, Go Back To It
Mike and Frank aren’t afraid to go back to a good source once they find one. They frequently revisit people they’ve bought from in the past and make notes to contact people in the future who have good items but aren’t ready to sell yet.
If you can keep a file on hand of website owners to contact every 3 to 6 months about their sites, you increase the odds that when they decide to sell, they’ll remember you. Don’t be pushy about it — just let them know you’re still interested and that if they decide to sell, you’d love to hear from them.
Always Keep the End-Game in Mind
The guys don’t get too wrapped up in how cool something is that they forget the reason they’re there in the first place — to make money. Mike and Frank rarely overpay for something, because they know that they need to be able to sell the things they buy if they want to make money.
It’s a little different with websites in that the sites we buy should throw off cashflow while we hold them, but the fact remains that we don’t want to overpay on the front end. Know if you want to hold or flip it from the outset, then pay a price that makes sense based on those plans. You can’t be altruistic in your negotiations — this is when you make your money.
Sometimes It Helps to Have Someone to Confirm Your Hunches
There’s a reason Mike and Frank pick as a pair (besides the fact that it makes for better television). There are times when the two will consult each other about whether or not to go after a specific item or if they can make money paying a certain price for that must-have antique they’ve just uncovered.
It’s helpful to have a confidant who you can bounce ideas off of when you’re not 100% sure that your own intuition and experience are enough to ensure a great deal.