The Sears Catalog Used To Sell Complete Homes, 100 Years Later They're Collector's Items

Sears Archive

While they may not be around much longer, the Sears department store chain has a long and interesting history in America.

Their famous catalog changed shopping forever by allowing rural citizens to "window shop" from the comfort of their living rooms. The huge books were once so common that people used the pages as toilet paper.  

And while the catalog contained thousands of items for the home, it also sold actual homes.

The Sears home catalog.Wikimedia

Between 1908 and 1940, Sears and Roebuck sold 70,000 build-it-yourself home plans to Americans across the country, from the East Coast to California and even Alaska. Shoppers would request a copy of the store's separate Honor Bilt Modern Homes Catalog, which included dozens of designs to pick from.

Once the home of your choice was ordered, home-building materials would be shipped by train to the nearest freight depot in a pair of boxcars. Most designs included at least 25 tons of materials and 30,000 parts.

Sears Archive

New owners either recruited their friends and family to help build the home, or hired a team of contractors to do the work for them. New innovations like precut timber and step-by-step instructions made it as easy as assembling a giant Ikea house.

A surviving Sears kit

And while Sears eventually stopped making their unique homes, demand for these architectural oddities is still high, and some Sears homes are actually rare collector's items.

There were more than 400 different styles of Sears homes, ranging from simple family homes to huge mansions.

While the designs were made to be built easily, Sears was competing with other "kit home" builders across the country. That meant the company included lots of special small details in their designs, like oak floors, cypress wood siding, and cedar shingles.

Nicer models even included modern amenities, like central heating, indoor plumbing, and electricity.

Sears Archive

Because of the unique history behind Sears homes, and their nice old-fashioned look, the thousands of Sears homes still standing across the country are in high demand by collectors.

Sears destroyed their records of the kit home program after it ended in 1940, so it will take a little digging around your house to see if it was a Sears model.

The rarest of all Sears homes is the Magnolia, a mansion design which was the company's largest and most expensive kit. Today there are just seven left standing across the country.

Sears Home

With high demand and almost no supply, some Sears home fans are taking matters into their own hands and building their own Sears homes, using the company's original plans.

A modern reproduction of a Sears model.Wikimedia

If you want to find out more about Sears homes and learn how to spot one, check out the company's historical archive.

Know anyone who might be living in one of these homes?

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