1. From 1908 – 1940 Sears Modern Homes program offered over 500 ready to assemble “designs” from mansions to bungalows and even summer cottages. Sears was not the first or only company to sell pre-fab homes. Aladdin Homes was the first.
2. There is a large collection of Sears Modern Catalog Homes still in existence The Crescent Hills section of Hopewell VA has 44 homes. Elgin, Illinois has the largest known collection over 200 homes.
3. These homes were built on the speculation and dream of M T Broyhill and associates, during the mid-1920’s and 1930. Marvin Broyhill purchased the land and subdivided it into lots. He brought in water, electricity and sewer. Sending letters to plant executives of prominent industries in the area and older neighborhoods, he advertised “strictly high class homes” to be built.
4. Customers selected these homes out of a Sears catalog. You could vary the design and materials.
5. Sears stood by its reputation for quality and great pride in the homes it manufactured and sold.
6. Marketing techniques included sales kits, and photo displays used by salespeople to sell the house.
7. Everything arrived pre-cut, complete with a set of specifications and instructions to aid in construction. I met one of the owners. He has live in one of the houses for 20 years. It’s solid; he said he needs to replace his windows but other then that it is a beautiful home. He said in the basement in the rafters you can see numbers on the wood to match the pieces to the instructions.
8. Sears had an attractive finance plan and a personalized service where customers could modify the floor plan, exterior and materials used. The depression caused a lot of people to default on these lenient loans and this caused Sears to not only lose money but also became a public relations nightmare when many of these homes were repossessed. The program ceased in 1940.
9. When a sale was confirmed, everything involving construction and completion was enclosed with a shipping schedule and origin sheets and mailed to the customer. According to Marvin Broyhill III, he recalled a conversation he had with his grandfather’s younger brother Pete. The pre-fab houses arrived by rail and included blueprints.
10. There is a Sears home enthusiasts section of the Sears Archives website if you are interested in looking into this further. Sears records are long gone, so they can not tell you if you live in a home that was part of the Modern Home Program but they do offer suggestions on how to obtain that information. The lists mentions homes in Pennsylvania. Rosemary Thornton, the author of The Houses That Sears Built offers this “How to Identify a Sear Home Kit” at wikihow.com.