In 1908, in the midst of the mail-order catalog era, Sears, Roebuck, and Company issued the first Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans. The first catalog listed 44 different styles of homes that ranged in sizes, options and costs that readers could purchase.
By 1916, these catalog homes came with every material that was needed to build the house, all the way down to pre-cut lumber, windows, paint + a set of instructions. (Think IKEA furniture on steroids.)
Once a family chose the style home they wanted, all they had to do was mail a check to Sears and Roebuck — which even had financing options available, with payments as low as $35 per month — and a few weeks later, all of the parts would arrive by train.
While Sears Modern Homes were very affordable, they weren’t cheaply constructed. According to Popular Mechanic, the homes came with high-end materials (often including oak floors + cypress ceilings). In 1918, popular models ranged in price from $3,600-4,600 (about $61,000-78,500 today). Additionally, the financing application didn’t ask demographic questions (ethnicity, gender, etc.), which provided home ownership options for those who might have otherwise faced discrimination locally.
While Sears advertised that the mail-order homes could be built in only 90 days with just basic skills, most families hired builders to get the job done.
The last catalogs were sent in 1940, and in these 32 years, some 75,000 Sears and Roebuck kit homes were purchased and built — predominantly through the Midwest and Northeast US.
Though the Sears catalog homes weren’t as common in the South, they can be found in abundance around Raleigh’s original suburban neighborhoods — especially in Mordecai and Five Points, which were developed beginning in 1922 during the catalog home heyday. Some of the most popular styles in our city include the Aladdin Plaza and the Argyle. A few examples include:
🏡 1201 Park Drive | Built: 1910 | Style: Argyle
🏡 518 E. Franklin Street | Built: 1922 | Style: Aladdin Shadow Lawn
🏡 1322 Mordecai Drive | Built: 1924 | Style: Whitehall
🏡 726 S. Boylan Avenue | Built: 1927 | Style: Americus
🏡 1102 Glenwood Avenue | Built: 1930 | Style: Winona
View more photos here.
Identifying a Sears Modern Home can be difficult, especially since the company lost the majority of its records on the homes. However, there are a few key factors that help to identify them — including stamped lumber, shipping labels + unique column arrangements.
Do you live in a Sears catalog home (or think that you do)? Or do you know of any local Sears homes? Send us an email with your pictures and stories + we’ll work on an update with what we receive.
Wishing you could travel back in time and purchase one of these homes? (Us too.) Until that’s possible, check out this Sears Modern Homes catalog from 1936 + use the links below to share this info with your friends and elder family members who might remember what we’re talking about.