Long before Amazon Prime, shoppers across America turned to the Sears catalog to purchase all kinds of consumer goods—not just products for the home, but also the homes themselves. While the retailer is clinging to life amid a changing consumer landscape, many of the “kit homes” it designed and sold will stand long after the last Sears store closes.
More than 70,000 “Sears Modern Homes” were sold between 1908 and 1940. These easy-to-assemble, mail-order homes were shipped across the United States and Canada, according to the Sears archives.
These customizable homes could be manufactured for anyone, anywhere. Whether their customers needed a simple cottage without a bathroom (an outhouse could be purchased separately), or wanted to submit their own multistory blueprints to Sears, there was a Modern Home for every location and budget.
Customers were given everything needed for basic assembly—including the nails—delivered by rail, and most folks with adequate carpentry expertise could put up their new house in just a few days. (Plumbing and electrical systems, however, did not come with the kits.)
Because the homes were so easy to tailor to their owners’ tastes, true Sears Modern Homes can be tricky to identify today. Rosemary Thornton, a recognized expert on Sears kit homes, offers several tips to verify a home’s Sears lineage.
With so many of these homes sold, many still come up for sale. We pinpointed nine models from across the country that still stand tall as a testament to American ingenuity.
Livability in Lexington: Built in 1928 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this four-bedroom home has been meticulously maintained over the years. Located on a tree-lined street in a lovely, mature neighborhood, the property has had the same owner for 25 years. It comes with a 10-year-old garage, garden house in the backyard, an unfinished basement, and a floored attic.
Bungalow beauty: This beauty of a bungalow is tucked in the historic Westside neighborhood and has a newly remodeled kitchen and other modern upgrades. Many original features—including built-in cabinets and hardwood floors—have been maintained and add heaps of character to the four-bedroom home.
Happy home: This 880-square-foot, ranch-style home has two bedrooms. For nearly 100 years the home has been meticulously cared for and features hardwood flooring, enclosed front porch, and renovated kitchen.
Charming cottage: Sitting smack dab in the historic district of Pinehurst, this home was assembled from a Sears kit in 1929 on one of the largest lots in the area. Fully renovated in 2011, the home won the Moore Country Home Builders’ Association’s Excellence Award for the Best Historic Renovation. The renovation expanded the home’s footprint to four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and more than 2,000 square feet.
Converse Heights: Built in 1925, this three-bedroom, Arts and Crafts–style home shines. Located in the desirable Converse Heights neighborhood, the home greets visitors with a large front porch. Indoors, large windows welcome in natural light. Outdoors, a large deck in the backyard offers an ideal spot for warm-weather entertaining.
Historic house: Built in 1911, this Sears home sits on a large, corner lot in a historic district, surrounded by antebellum homes. Measuring in at a roomy 3,500 square feet, the four-bedroom home is ready for its new owner to take it into its next century.
Horse haven: This 1932 catalog home sits on nearly 7 acres of fenced horse property. In addition to the four-bedroom home, the purchase price includes a workshop, a covered, outdoor entertaining area, an 1894 restored barn with attached two-car garage, a clubhouse, and a horse barn.
Burlington beauty: According to the listing, this catalog home is the Vallonig model. The updated five-bedroom home is zoned for residential and commercial use, which makes it a great opportunity for a bed-and-breakfast or live-work space.
Waterfront wonder: Sitting just a few steps from the water’s edge on Triangle Pond, this 898-square-foot cottage was delivered in 1954 and assembled on-site. The gorgeous 2-acre lot has plenty of room to expand.
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