finally, affordable housing!
March 16, 2005 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Build a huge house for only $782?! Low-cost housing for the masses! Unfortunately, you have to travel back in time to build houses for less than $1000. How many of these homes are in your town or on your block? (courtesy of J-Walk)
posted by crunchland (21 comments total)
Woo hoo! I live in a version of The Cedars (Model No. C3278). It's damn charming, if I do say so myself.
posted by scratch at 8:18 AM on March 16, 2005

Most of these would go for $300,000 to $800,000 in Chicago right now. I'd say whoever bought one brand new has a nice ROI.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:20 AM on March 16, 2005

This reminds me of the time in 1986 when I looked at a 10-year-old auto guide listing some Mercedes models as retailing for less then $5000.
posted by clevershark at 8:21 AM on March 16, 2005

Great link, Crunchland. I'm looking for houses in an old neighborhood in Saint Paul and have seen quite a few of the medium-sized ones in the $250-$450K range. I wonder if the owners honor sales from other places, like Best Buy.
posted by Arch Stanton at 8:23 AM on March 16, 2005

Interestingly, according to the Inflation Calculator, the first house listed on the page (Model 52) which cost $1,995 in 1914 dollars would apparently cost roughly $35,436.88 in today's (2003) money.

I know that in the early '60's, my parents bought a house in a housing development in Fairfield County, Connecticut for the princely sum of $14,500. You can't even buy a new car for that little money these days.
posted by crunchland at 8:27 AM on March 16, 2005

[this is good]

in my past life as a real estate appraiser i discovered many of these 'catalog' homes in my hometown. i also noted the fact that if you put one of these side by side with a modern stickbuilt and blew a force three tornado by them both, the mail order home would fare much better. they just don't build 'em like they used to.
posted by quonsar at 8:39 AM on March 16, 2005

A friend of mine used to own one, I spent tons of time in it, but it was years ago and sadly I can't recall which one it was. It was really nice on the inside (solid, nice layout and details) and when he told me it was a Sears catalogue house I didn't really believe him.
posted by lazymonster at 8:46 AM on March 16, 2005

$14.500. You can't even buy a new car for that little money these days.

Actually, you can... but it's definitely on the low end.
posted by kindall at 8:57 AM on March 16, 2005

I just noticed .. this 1908 house doesn't have a bathroom. I guess you get what you pay for.
posted by crunchland at 8:59 AM on March 16, 2005

Sigh ... and I like the look of the Sears houses *so* much better than the new houses being built these days.
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:07 AM on March 16, 2005

I wonder if the homebuyer in 1914 thought the same of a $1000 pricetag as I feel now about the $200000 pricetags on the new markets today. It would seem not, if crunchland's inflation calculator is correct.

Ah, but i remind myself, it's all about location, location, location. I can still buy a $30K house in a small town in Texas if I really wanted to live there.
posted by Jonasio at 9:14 AM on March 16, 2005

Does anyone remember the article done in "Spy" magazine in the late 80s or early 90s about the staggering increases in property values over the previous two or three generations?
They begin with the idea that to get a three bedroom house in a nice suburb would cost X (say $250,000.00) and then see what that same house would have cost twenty years earlier, as well as showing what X would have gotten at that time. By the time they had gone back about three generations, for the price of that modest three bedroom house, you could have built "The Breakers" or another similar Newport "cottage".
I have been trying for awhile to locate the article again, to see how it would update. ( I have a friend here in Los Angeles who bought a tiny [under 1000 sq. ft.] house on a good size lot in 1999 for well under 300k and last year it was appraised at 425k.)
If anyone knows what issue the article was in, or know where it might be found on line, I'd love to find it. And if there's a group who might know, it's the Mefites.
posted by Listener_T at 9:17 AM on March 16, 2005

A couple of things...

First, wasn't the cost listed the cost of the materials + plans? Did it include delivery? Someone still had to build the house, yes? Also land cost...does anyone know?

Second, remember that money was scarce back then (although labor was cheap, since nobody had any money). I grew up in Chicago next door to an elderly couple that claimed they were the first to live in the neighborhood, and that they had an opportunity to purchase the entire neighborhood outright for several thousand dollars. Unfortunately, they couldn't do it, because the depression was starting, and they could barely afford the house they'd just had built.

Incidentally, the house itself (a light brick number on the extreme northwest side of Chicago) is in great shape, and now sits in a very hot up-and-coming neighborhood.
posted by davejay at 9:43 AM on March 16, 2005

My grandparents had a Sears home and my cousin owns and lives in it now. It's tiny, but well made. But I can't imagine it's worth much more than $30K, because of it's rural location.
posted by cptnrandy at 9:56 AM on March 16, 2005

I'm going to have Toll Bros. build me a "Hamilton" house. Then I'm going to take a printout of this link to them and ask for a price match.

More on this as it develops :)
posted by ThusSpakeZarathustra at 10:09 AM on March 16, 2005

Land cost would be an unknown variable, davejay. According to this one site, an acre of land cost $35 in Manhattan Beach, California in 1905.

Many of the listings on the Sears site say how much the houses would cost to build, including labor costs. This one, for example, says that the plans and materials cost $1,294 from Sears, but when you add on the cost of labor, cement, brick and plaster, the price shoots up to a staggering $3,050.

And I'm not sure what you mean when you say no one had money. In 1908, the stock market crash was still 21 years away.

(Here's an interesting site that helps you come to relate to how much things cost at various times... according to it, in 1908, bread cost 5 cents a loaf; milk was .32 a gallon; a car cost you $500; a house could be had for $4500; stamps were 2 cents each; the average income was $915/year; and the DOW average was 86.)

So, using those numbers, in 1908, a house cost a little under 5 times the average worker's salary to pay off. According to the prices listed for 1/1/2000, the cost of a house ($206,400) compared to the average salary ($65k) works out to be only a little more than 3 times the annual income.

If the numbers are true, it costs less to buy a home now than it did 100 years ago!
posted by crunchland at 10:43 AM on March 16, 2005

Crunchland wrote;

I just noticed .. this 1908 house doesn't have a bathroom. I guess you get what you pay for.

My house (not a Sears catalog house, unfortunately) was built in 1926, without a bathroom. Part of the livingroom was walled off to create one. Had to add more dirt to fill in the depression where the outhouse used to be last summer.
posted by QIbHom at 10:43 AM on March 16, 2005

I just finished a book where the main character's grandparents bought the Chelsea model; how great to be able to look at the floorplan. Thanks!
posted by rhapsodie at 12:11 PM on March 16, 2005

Sears acrchives? Woo! Now including the Vincent Price Collection of Fine Art.
posted by bdave at 2:34 PM on March 16, 2005

I just noticed .. this 1908 house doesn't have a bathroom. I guess you get what you pay for.

It also seems to be the only house listed there without a concrete excavated foundation. Instead you get a wooden foundation? I wouldn't trust that against a "modern" house in a tornado...
posted by artifarce at 11:16 AM on March 17, 2005

There were quite a few catalog house companies out there...Sears, Aladdin, Montgomery Wards, Harris, Ready-Built...the list goes on.

Do kit houses still exist? Oh, yes. Absolutely!

Need something a bit smaller and in line with the costs of 1908? Here you go.
posted by jeanmari at 12:44 PM on March 17, 2005

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