Modular Homes, by definition, are homes assembled at the building site. In 1908 Sears, Roebuck and Company (sold under the name "Sears Modern Homes") released a "Speciality Catalog" that offered 22 home styles ranging in price from $650 to $2,500.00. An entire home, including precut lumber, carved staircases, varnish, nails and instructions would be shipped out via the railroad. The home could be built within 352 hours, as opposed to 583 hours, or 40% less time than conventional built homes. (Sounds a little like a Modular??)
Pretty odd, you might think. But not if you were living during that time... cities were over crowded. Illness ran rampid, after all that was before vaccines were used. And don't forget about the heavy immigration that was going on then. "Land of Opportunity" was awaiting any who were wanting to reach out for the golden ring. Businesses alike, also needed to house employees.
1908 Model #115
Business was booming for Sears. Sears reported more than 70,000 of these homes were sold between 1908 and 1940, with more than THREE HUNDRED sold in a single month (May, 1926)! Sears started offering financing in 1911 to help not only cover the cost of materials, but to help with the labor costs as well (now it's sounding a bit like a modern day Renovation loan!) Typical loans ran at 6% interest over 5 years, but could be extended up to 15 years.
Yep, I know what you are thinking... The Big Depression hit in 1929, just as Sears hit their high of over $12 million in sales. Unfortunately, $5.6 million was in loans. By 1934, over $11million in mortgages had to be liquidated. The National Housing Act of 1934 created FHA, but the scope and timing of the program wasn't enough. Finally, in 1940, Sears Modern Home Division closed their doors.
A sad ending? Maybe if your cup is half empty. But on the half full side, Sears left quite a mark on the history of the American housing market. Over a period of three and a half decades, Sears offered 447 designs from talented but annonymous architects, with amazing flexibility of layouts, modified options, and even multiple siding options. I'd say this might have been one of our first examples of really "thinking out of the box"!
Here is a picture taken in 2005 of one of their homes. Pretty cute, don't you think?
For more information go to: Searsarchives.com/homes/index.htm
Opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the view of Fairway Independent Mortgage.
Ruth Vogt, Sales Manager
#LMB100023827, NMLSR# 257576
Equal Housing Opportunity.
Regulated by the Division of Real Estate.