Today Sears is known for appliances and other products that you find in department stores. With the recent closing of hundreds of stores, it seemed as if their run is coming to a close. Sears may have become a casualty of the modern shopping era but they once were the pioneers of innovation.
In the early 1900s, home buying was as simple as opening up a Sears catalog. Sears Modern Homes were sold factory to consumers and the consumer assumed the responsibility for building the actual home.
From 1908–1940, Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold about 70,000 – 75,000 homes through their mail-order Modern Homes program. Over that time Sears designed 447 different housing styles…Customers could choose a house to suit their individual tastes and budgets.
Sears was not an innovative home designer. Sears was instead a very able follower of popular home designs but with the added advantage of modifying houses and hardware according to buyer tastes. Modern Home customers had the freedom to build their own dream houses, and Sears helped realize these dreams through quality custom design and favorable financing.
Without going into specifics of applicable laws on home building and land ownership in the early 1900’s, that process was most likely easier and required less hoops than home buying in today’s society.
The average home price hovered around $1,000 and the average financing term for a home loan was 5 years at 6% and could extend to 15 years. In today’s market that would roughly put a home purchase at around $25,000. That may be remarkable considering the average price of a home in the United States is $217,300, according to Zillow.
The Great Depression eventually ended the boom of Sears Modern Homes and their last catalog home was sold in 1940. However, they did help familiarize many families with modern conveniences that we now enjoy in standard American homes. Indoor plumbing, central heating and electricity were new developments at the time and eventually became common in construction of homes.
The architecture of many of these homes have been replicated throughout the country. Some original catalog homes are still standing and have served as a declaration of the time and society they were built in.