Customers would look through the Sears Modern Homes and Building Plans catalog, picked a dream home from dozens of models, sent a check and, a few weeks later, all the house parts arrived by rail. They included 10,000 pieces of framing lumber, 20,000 cedar shakes, screws, nails, paint and the endless other parts needed to build a house, including the doors, the doorknobs and the drawer pulls for the kitchen cabinets.
The lumber came precut, along with instructions. Sears promised that, working without a carpenter and only rudimentary skills, a person could finish their Sears mail-order home in less than 90 days. Most customers, however, relied on local builders to put their house together. Sears even told you how much that should cost.
The price was right: In 1918, some of the most popular models, which included many bungalows and Foursquares, cost roughly $3,600 to $4,600. To make things even easier, in 1911 Sears, Roebuck and Company began to offer financing. Although the mortgage at first included only building materials, it soon expanded to cover the building lot.