January 20, 2015

The Most Expensive Sears Homes

One misconception about Sears houses is that they are little shacks. Sears did sell some of those teeny tiny models (most have not survived today), but they also sold very expensive kit houses and custom designed homes.

Today I'd like to feature the five most expensive Sears kit houses. I tried to account for inflation in these rankings, because Sears sold houses for many years (1908-1942). Additionally, these are single family homes; many of the two-flats or multi-family homes from Sears cost substantially more.

One other complication is that some of the houses came with lumber pre-cut to the correct sizes; others came with uncut lumber (which was less expensive and artificially kept the price down since labor costs would be higher). It's hard to compare pricing when you're not comparing apples to apples.

1. The Carlton

The Sears Carlton was offered one year only--1918. The house was designed by architect John Van Bergen. A Carlton has never been identified "in the wild", so perhaps it was just too expensive for 1918 home buyers.

2. The Magnolia

The Magnolia was offered from 1918 -1923. Its price fluctuated over the years (in 1920 the cost of materials went sky high and house prices went up as well). When the Magnolia and the Carlton were both offered in 1918, the Carlton cost more; therefore, it's at the number 1 spot. Both houses are really nice, no matter how you slice it.

I believe nine Magnolias have been located to date. The closest one to Chicago is in South Bend, Indiana.

A Sears Magnolia in Syracuse, NY. Photo courtesy of Proulxhome.

3. The Lexington

The Lexington was offered from 1920 -1933. The plan changed dramatically over time. The early changes were minor, for instance, the 8'4" ceilings were dropped to 8'2". Then into the 1930's the house stayed in the Colonial Revival style, but the inside floor plan was completely different.

The 1920 Lexington had the most expensive features--that model really belongs at #3 in our countdown. The 1933 model--not so much.

Considering how many years this model was sold, I have seen only four Lexingtons in the Chicago area to date--Glen Ellyn, Evanston, Downers Grove, and Highland Park

An authenticated Sears Lexington at 1723 Edgewood Blvd in Berkley, MI. The owners got a mortgage from Sears Roebuck in 1921. Photo courtesy of Jeff Rysenga.

4. The Glen Falls

The Glen Falls was offered from 1926 -1930. Many people are not fans of the Glen Falls--the pillars are too large, the front entrance is too severe and seems out of place from the rest of the design. It's a big house at 46' wide.

I haven't seen a Glen Falls in the Chicago area.

29856 Dawson, Garden City, MI. Photo courtesy of  Andrew Mutch.

5. The Preston

The Preston was offered from 1918 -1924. The Preston is an uncommon model and only a handful have been identified nationwide. There is one in the Chicago suburbs-Oak Park, pictured below.

900 Fair Oaks, Oak Park.



Anonymous said...

Interesting post! Thanks!

SearsHouseSeeker said...

Wow! I've never even heard of the Carlton! Interesting post :)

Unknown said...

The Lexington and the Preston both made it onto the list.. but not the Pennsgrove? Is it because Pennsgrove has no price given?

Thanks for a really well written post!

Sears Homes of Chicagoland said...

The bigger Sears houses in the early 1930's were usually between $3,100-$3,500 (the Pennsgrove was offered 1931 and early 1932).


The Preston topped out at $4,705 in 1920. For comparison, that same year, the Lexington was $5,227.

The Glen View was one of the most expensive houses offered during the 1930's, and even that was only around $3,800. http://www.sears-homes.com/2013/03/a-rare-sears-glen-view-model-in-glenview.html

The prices for all the Sears houses shot up around 1920. The inflation rate after WWI was about 20%. Like I said in the introduction, this isn't an exact science. I used some CPI calculators and did my best to equate prices over the years.

Additionally, lumber prices were up 200%-250% between 1914 and 1920. The cost of raw materials was skyrocketing. 1920 was not a great year to building a house!

Anonymous said...

I owned a Glen Falls in West Chester, PA.

Anonymous said...

There is a Magnolia sears home in Oakland, Ms.

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