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Sears Catalog Homes: Overview, History & Present Day

My Grandmother's Cousin ordered and lived in a Sears Home until they had passed away. Their daughter then decided to restore it back to it's original look inside and outside as they had made changes over the years. I have always enjoyed hearing her stories about her house. She also has traveled around the Country visiting other Sears Homes. These homes are truly iconic and I wanted to share this article with you.

Stacy Stumpner

My cousin Marilyn in front of her Sears Home in Hartford, WI

Sears, Roebuck and Company, more commonly known as Sears, wasn’t just a retail giant. From 1908 to 1942, Sears dipped its toes into the housing business by selling innovative catalog homes. From charming craftsman bungalows to grand colonial revivals, Sears catalog homes offered an affordable path to homeownership in the United States. Read through as I explore these iconic mail-order houses’ history, lasting impact, their worth today, and tips on marketing them.

The History of Sears Catalog Homes

In 1908, Sears launched its first Sears Modern Homes Catalog. Prospective homeowners could choose from various home models in the catalog, place an order, and receive the home kit by mail. That year, the base price for a Sears home kit was around $650, which is about $22,000 today. Of course, that price didn’t cover the land, electrical, and plumbing—it only included the necessary materials (e.g., lumber, shingles, millwork) and building instructions. These weren’t flimsy materials; Sears delivered high-quality, pre-cut pieces that were made to last.

The 1910s proved to be another successful time for Sears Modern Homes. The company streamlined home kit production, established regional shipping warehouses, and offered payment plans. Sears catalogs became a favorite source for clothing, appliances, homes, and furniture—a one-stop shop for every American. Families built their dream homes from Sears kits, highlighting the ease of assembly.

1915, Sears continued to innovate by offering more home styles. The Sears Modern Homes Catalog offered around 370 models, with about 80 to 100 models in each catalog, catering to various preferences, budgets, and family sizes. The popularity of Sears catalog homes soared throughout the 1920s, fueled by a thriving economy and the convenience of mail-order purchasing. Sears also recognized the growing demand for modern amenities and began offering electrical wiring and plumbing fixtures as add-ons in their kits.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Sears continued to offer smaller, more affordable houses to cater to tighter budgets and changing market demands. However, despite these more economical housing solutions, Sears’ sales still dipped. As a result, Sears stopped selling home kits in 1940, marking the end of a significant era.

Sears may have ceased its mail-order housing business, but its legacy remains. According to reports, Sears sold more than 70,000 home kits. Even though Sears no longer sells home kits, many of these houses still stand and become available in the market. You might even stumble upon some of them on property listing sites! While there’s no fixed price for a Sears home today, listings typically range from $300,000 to over a million. The continuous presence of Sears homes in the housing market only proves their timeless appeal, which attracts buyers.

How to Identify a Sears Kit Home

Think your current gorgeous bungalow listing arrived by mail order during the 1930s? Here’s how to crack the code and see if you got a Sears house listing:

1. Inspect Parts of the House

Study the construction materials used in the house. Popular home styles of Sears houses include craftsman bungalows, Tudors, and colonial revivals. These styles usually featured low-sloped roofs, elaborate chimneys, and spacious front porches, mostly constructed with pre-cut pieces, pre-cut lumber, and asphalt shingles.

2. Identify Unique Markings & Consult Sears Catalogs

Look for markings such as stamped lumber in the basement or attic, as these were used to assist in construction. Not all Sears houses have these letter and number markings, but their presence is a vital clue. Additionally, check behind millwork, such as window trims and baseboards, for some shipping labels. Sears attached these labels to some pieces, so look for markings indicating the house’s origin.

3. Research the House’s History

Gather information about the house’s original owner and construction date. Explore archives and historical records in your local library to learn more about the origins of the house and its potential ties to Sears catalog designs. Check if the house was built during the time when Sears home kits were popular.

4. Seek an Expert’s Opinion

If you’re still unsure whether you’ve got a Sears house, consider seeking a professional’s opinion or anyone familiar with Sears homes. You can also contact historians, preservation specialists, or organizations that identify properties with architectural histories. Additionally, you can join online communities or forums like Facebook groups and Reddit threads dedicated to Sears homes. Connect with other Sears homeowners and enthusiasts who can guide your research.

How Much Are Sears Houses Worth Today?

While you couldn’t order a Sears house from today’s catalog anymore, many of these iconic houses still stand. If, by any chance, you own one or are about to have one as your listing, you might be surprised by its current value. And believe it or not, these Sears houses don’t even stay on the market long!

Here are some Sears kit homes currently on the market, contingent, and just sold:

25 Warringham Ave, Waterford, Michigan

  • Asking price: $349,000

  • Sears house model: Lewiston

  • Year built: 1929

418 Ann St, West Chicago, Illinois

Asking price: $325,000

  • Sears house model: Barrington

  • Year built: 1928

327 Geneva Rd, Glen Ellyn, Illinois

  • Asking price: $475,000

  • Sears house model: Colchester

  • Year built: 1926

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