Sears Ready-Made House Kits, 1908-1940: Many Still Stand in Michigan
Do you know anyone who lives in a Sears kit house? Or do YOU live in one?
Beginning in 1908, Michiganders – and the rest of the country – were given the opportunity to purchase their own house for a low, low price. The catch is – you had to build it yourself.
According to Mlive, the annual Sears catalogs were packed with different types of structure kits to choose from: houses, barns, cottages, and bungalows...a total of 447 different styles. You'd place your order and in a matter of a few weeks your do-it-yourself kit would arrive by train and dumped in your front yard. Many of the buyers would assemble the houses themselves (it took approximately anywhere from three to six months), and for the others with limited carpentry skills, they'd hire professionals to put the house together, which saved a lot of time.
Remarkably, many of these houses built by the owners are still standing. One Sears house in particular has been abandoned for decades – crumbling and vandalized – but amazingly still standing, as you'll see in the photo gallery below.
The first round of homes had price tags ranging from $650 - $2,500, with the more elaborate models (like the Magnolia) for almost $6,000.
Not only did the kit include all the wood you needed, but also a built-in ironing board, eaves, flooring, hardware, kitchen cupboards, paint, porch ceiling, shingles, siding, trim, varnish, and windows. An extra room approximately cost another $260. Another appealing aspect of these ready-made house kits was that everything was pre-cut, no power tools were necessary.....which was great, because not many people had access to power tools in the early 1900s.
Within a thirty-two year span, Sears sold over 100,000 house kits; then in 1940, it was all over.
1911: Sears begins offering mortgages
1933: Mortgage options were discontinued, thanks to the stock market crash/Great Depression
1934: Outstanding mortgage accounts were eliminated
1940: Sears discontinued selling ready-made house kits
Maybe the house you moved into recently was actually a Sears home...there are many of them spread throughout Michigan.
The images in the gallery below include some old house kit ads, styles, real Sears homes still standing, and an abandoned one that still hangs in there.
Sears Home Kits
A Few of Michigan's Miniature Golf Courses
Constructing the Mackinac Bridge, 1954-1957
The Ghost Town of Meauwataka