Sears Catalog Homes were kit homes sold through the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog between 1908 and 1940. Sears shipped the kits primarily by rail and about half of the purchasers put the kit together themselves. Sears sold over 70,000 of these homes.
The Sears Catalog Home saved the homeowner about 30 percent over the cost of constructing a home using conventional materials. Sears estimated the cost of hiring a contractor to complete the home at $450 in 1908. It sold the basic home kits without plumbing, allowing the buyer to select the options and purchase them separately through the catalogue.
The framing for Sears Catalog Homes was precut and the wallboard shipped in 4-foot squares. Sears stamped each piece with a number, so the novice homebuilder was able to put together 10,000 to 30,000 pieces using the 750 pounds of nails the kit included.
Sears also provided financing for the homes between 1911 and 1933. Documents showing one of these mortgages or their release when the owner paid the home in full is an indicator that the home is an original catalog house.
The Great Depression, Federal Home Administration loans and homebuyers' demands for more complex houses brought the end to Sears Catalog Homes. While many of the homes remain in existence, they are sometimes difficult to locate, as the company destroyed its home sales records a few years after closing the division.