Would you believe that you could be looking at pictures of new homes in a catalog one day and just a few weeks later that one of these homes could be built for you from several boxes of materials? That is just how over 100,000 people built new homes across the United States during the period between 1908 and 1940. This offered affordable housing to people who would otherwise not have been able to own a home of their own. Also, when the boxes arrived at your door the home could be assembled and completed that day!
Many people received the Sears catalog and would look through more than a hundred different models to find the one that would suit their needs. They ranged in price from about $400 for a three room model without a bathroom to over $3,000 for a seven room home with oak doors, shutters, and a granite bath tub. building materials suppliers
These homes were referred to as “kit houses” and were very popular during this time. Sears offered a payment plan, a cross between a credit card and a mortgage, so that people could live in the house while they were still paying for it. You could also pay extra to have a construction supervisor assist you with putting the kit together.
Other companies like Montgomery Ward and Aladdin also sold homes by mail, but Sears was the most well known and sold more than the others. This was seen as an affordable and quick way to build a house for your family. Entire neighborhoods across the United States consist of these homes. Sometimes a company needed housing for its workers and ordered a dozen or more at a time. Water and sewer lines were connected and the new neighborhood could be completed within a week of receiving the materials.
Today there are still kit homes available from many companies that specialize in them. They are primarily used as vacation homes or cabins. Many communities prohibit manufactured homes in certain areas of town because of the belief that they will bring down property values.
Sears destroyed many records over the years so it is now impossible to find all of the homes. There are people who have made a hobby of locating them and listing them as historic buildings. Many times someone currently living in a kit home is not even aware that their home is of that type.
This is another part of the history of home building across the United States. The American dream of owning a home can take on many different forms and this is just one of them.