The Sears Catalog Once Sold Kits to Build Homes – Like This House in Royal Oak
Imagine turning to the 'Homes' section in the Sears Roebuck catalog and picking out a house to build and live in. That was a reality in the 1920s, and this home in Royal Oak is an example.
Mail Order Catalogs in Their Heyday
Long before Amazon and next-day delivery, Sears (and other major retailers) published thick, colorful catalogs filled with just about all of the merchandise available in their respective retail stores with an even greater selection of styles and sizes. For roughly 100 years, mail-order catalogs were the go-to source for everything from clothes to lawn tractors. (If my memory serves me correctly, those two categories oftentimes bookended those publications.)
Pictured below is a Sears Roebuck catalog from 1918, via Internet Archive.
But the retail catalog and the once-common practice of mailing in a check with your order (and waiting four to six weeks for delivery) met its demise in the early 1990s as the popularity of the Internet began to take hold.
Sears Modern Homes
From roughly 1908 to 1942, the Sears Roebuck Co. sold ready-to-build home kits, manufactured by a company known as 'Honor Bilt.' The Sears Modern Homes catalog featured about 370 different home kits, all available to be shipped via railcars to consumers.
It's estimated that Sears sold about 70,000 of these homes, primarily in the Midwest and along the east coast.
This Michigan Home Was Built From a Kit
Take a look at this home located at 3506 Main Street in Royal Oak. It was built from a kit, purchased from the Sears catalog in the early 1920s.
Obviously, there have been some renovations and improvements done to this home in the last decade, but it started out as a kit.
This home model was known as 'The Avalon.' Take a look at this photo from the 1923 Sears Modern Homes catalog.
According to Historical Detroit Area Architecture, this six-room, one-bathroom home was purchased with a few extras, which brought the total mortgage to $4,200. The mortgage was financed by the Sears Roebuck company as well.