How to Look

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Cole Stevenson and H. Ward Jandl, Preservation Press, 1986). It has reproductions of the catalog pages for the most popular models Sears offered. Here’s the Elmwood model on page 114:

   The open sleeping porch at the second floor—which was popular before air conditioning—has been enclosed, along with the front porch, but a little back-and-forth examination of the two images will show that the bones of the home are identical to the Sears model. We did not visit with the homeowners to confirm the history of the house and it may be possible that it was a look-alike constructed by a local contractor. But, although the Sears designs were immensely popular during their time, they were rarely replicated by traditional home builders because the kits were such a great deal. More often, a local builder was hired to assist in the construction.

   However, several other companies also offered home construction kits, including their mail-order catalog rival Montgomery Ward. Here are a few ways to check and be absolutely certain that a home is a Sears kit:

  1. 1)Because the homes were made from pre-cut lumber that was numbered on the side of each piece near one end, you can look for a stamping on the lumber pieces (visible in the attic or crawl space) with a letter followed by several number digits, such as “D124.”

  2. 2)Some hardware fixtures like doorknobs and hinges, where still original, will be stamped with the Sears name or initials “SR.” Also, a remnant of an old Sears shipping label sticker might still be attached to the back of any trim lumber or moldings.

  3. 3)Documents for the house construction, such as the original Sears construction manual or blueprints may be discovered in a closet or attic. Building permit records, if still available at the courthouse or building department, will list “Sears and Roebuck” as the architect of the home.

  4. 4)The original homeowners, their children, or long-time neighbors may be able to verify the Sears pedigree.

   Another resource, with additional tips on verifying an authentic Sears kit home and plenty of history about the homes, plus stories of several communities that have neighborhoods with clusters of them, is The Houses That Sears Built - Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sears Catalog Homes (Rosemary Thornton, Gentle Beam Publications, 2004).


While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
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