Explore making your next house modular.
Modular homes might have evolved from the Sears kit houses from over 100 years ago. A typical kit, which was sold by Sears, Aladdin, and other companies, was delivered by rail, and contained 30,000 pieces. In 1895, Sears, Roebuck and Company began selling building materials in addition to everything else they already offered in their mail-order catalog. By 1908, customers were being invited to write in and ask for a copy the “Book of Modern Homes,” which featured house plans and building materials. Between 1908 and 1940, people ordered about 75,000 houses from Sears Roebuck and Company. That first catalog was 68-page long and offered 44 house designs, ranging in price from $695 - $4,115.
Customers were asked to send in $1 after they had selected the design they wanted. They then received a bill of materials list and full blueprints via mail. When they placed the full order, the $1 was credited toward their purchase. Two boxcars would arrive at the nearest train depot containing 30,000 pieces of the home. A 75-page instruction book told homeowners how to put those 30,000 pieces together. The kit included 750 pounds of nails, 22 gallons of paint and varnish and 20,000 shingles for the roof and siding. Masonry and plaster were not included in the kit, but the materials list said that 1,100 cement blocks would probably be needed for the basement walls and foundation.
By 1932, as the country struggled through the Great Depression, Sears Roebuck and Company’s Modern Homes department was operating at a loss, with sales dropping 40% in one year. The losses of 1932 marked the beginning of the end for the catalog homes sales. In 1939, Business Week magazine stated, “Sears pulled down the shades and quietly tiptoed from the room.”
Several manufacturers have made modular homes over the years. In the 1990’s they really took off. No longer called “Box Homes” or “Kit Homes,” they were no longer offered as a do-it-yourself project but were pre-built in factory settings before being brought to the property. Only 3.5% of homes are modular but their popularity is still growing.
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