The House that Sears Built

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I was browsing through ebay the other day checking out vintage Sears catalogs and I came across a listing for a CD filled with blueprints and pictures of Sears homes. I didn’t even know Sears made houses! There is a video all about this on youtube, but unfortunately I can’t embed it here, so click on this link to check it out and then come back to read more!

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Aren’t they wonderful? I love old houses with their secret attic spaces and non-cookie cutter floorplan, and the whole idea behind ordering an entire house – doorbell and all! – picking it up at the train station, and building it yourself, numbered precut board by numbered precut board, is really quite ingenious and Sears certainly reaped the benefits of recognizing that market.  And they offer over 300 styles of homes!  Unbelievable.  I was sitting here watching the video and seeing the pictures of their warehouses and thinking, “How on earth do companies do this?  How can they produce so much and have it be so detailed and organized? And have it suceed?”

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Sears made their Modern Homes from 1908 to 1939 and in the last year of production the prices ranged from about $700 to $3,000, so I researched a little and found that by today these would cost between $10,000 and $43,000, which is still an incredible deal.  However, there’s a whole lot of labor involved which is valued in man-sweat and also when you think about today’s building codes these houses would never make it pass inspection.

Even though Sears stopped making their homes by 1940, the industry of producing prefabricated homes is still alive and kicking today!  Dare I take our humble single-wide abode for example?  Or all those other vans down by the river??  Of course, these are nowhere near the aesthetic beauty and stability (and comfort!) of a Sears home, but I did come across a company named after its founder, Rocio Romero, that makes prefab homes with modern architecture, customizable floorplans, and are meant to “embrace the beauty of the environment…” They’re really quite smart (and smart-looking!) and reasonably priced (as far as normal houses go).  You can also check out an article about the founder of this company on NPR.org.

Personally, I would much rather have a Sears home :)

~ Erin

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