Vintage ‘Kit Homes’ Fetch More Than $1M

September 25, 2017

In the early 1900s, consumers bought “kit homes” through catalogs. Now, owners who have hung on to these vintage properties may be able to sell them at a huge profit.

Sears, Roebuck & Co., for example, sold 70,000 kit homes between 1908 and 1940. There were 370 different styles a buyer could choose from, such as bungalows and Colonials. Prices ranged from $600 to $6,000 in the 1920s, which is the equivalent of $8,400 to $84,000 in today’s dollars. All of the parts—the lumber, windows, cabinets, nails, paint, etc.—were shipped for assembly on the customer’s lot.

The historical significance of these homes is fielding strong demand and lofty offers from a certain segment of buyers. Anna Mackler, a salesperson at Long & Foster Real Estate in Bethesda, Md., listed her own kit home using the marketing tagline “Own a piece of history!” She sold the home in May for about $636,00—$200,000 above the asking price. Mackler told The Wall Street Journal that highlighting the property’s origins as a kit home made it “more appealing by adding to its character.”

Catarina Bannier, a sales associate with Evers & Co. Real Estate in D.C., says that she’s been fielding calls from those who want to know if their house is a kit home and whether that increases its value. In April, Bannier sold a 1920s-era five-bedroom kit home for $2.75 million.

In Indianapolis, Russ Lawrence, an agent with F.C. Tucker Company, listed a renovated 6,000-square-foot, 1930s-era kit home from Sears, Roebuck & Co. for $725,000. Lawrence says the home’s history was its main selling point. “Every single person who sees it mentions the Sears history,” he says. “There’s a curiosity factor.”

Kit homes are still produced today. Warner, N.H.-based Shelter-Kit ships components for homes as large as 8,000 square feet, which costs $300,000. Like most kit homes, the firm will ship everything for the shell of the home, but not the interior materials—such as the plumbing and electrical.

Source: “Some Vintage Kit Homes Now Sell for Over $1 Million,” The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 21, 2017) [Log-in required.]