Home Garden

How to Find the Houses That Sears Built

According to its archives, Sears sold an estimated 100,000 kit houses from its Modern Homes mail-order catalog between 1908 and 1940. Customers had 447 styles to choose from that could be modified according to their specific requests. Once purchased, a home was shipped in a kit to the customer by rail to be assembled on site by the new homeowner. Many of these homes still exist today and can be found in communities around the country.


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      View at the Sears Archive the complete collection of homes that were offered. If you are researching a specific home, search the style index by the year it was built. Elevation pictures and floor plans are shown for each style as they originally appeared in the catalogs. Use these as guides to help identify possible Sears homes.

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      Search archives and catalogs available through your local historical society or university library. Look for existing lists of Sears homes or archives of railway shipping logs. If shipping logs are available, look for freight shipped from "925 Homan Ave., Chicago, Illinois" or "Sears Roebuck, Chicago, Illinois."

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      Talk to neighbors to learn the history of a street. If their house has been identified as a Sears home, request a tour. Ask to see some of the signature Sears traits that helped in their identification, then use them as a guide in your own search.

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      Pay particular attention to the hardware when viewing possible Sears homes. Expert inspector Daniel Friedman and Sears home authority Rosemary Thornton recommend examining the door plates and hinges. Sears used a particular style of each in all of its homes. Some even bore the Sears name. When available, use real examples as a reference for comparison.

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      Examine the attic or basement with a powerful flash light. Look for exposed lumber for factory markings. Sears stamped most of its framing timber on the bottom 10 inches to aid in assembly.

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      Search for the original property deed at the county clerk's office. Most clerks store records from this time in historical archives and can be accessed through a grantor/grantee index. Records are stored according to year and are in alphabetical order by grantor name. Search for "Sears Roebuck" as grantor to locate records of homes that held Sears mortgages. Sears offered financing on its homes prior to the Great Depression.Search building permits if they are available. "Sears Roebuck" will be named as architect, if at all. If you are researching a specific property and still have not located the records, you will have to follow the chain of title from modern day all the way back to the original purchase. Search for the previous home owner's name to find who he purchased the house from and so on down the line until you come to the original owner. Once you locate the original records, look for any indication that the home was built by, purchased from, or financed by Sears.