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For the Love of (Old) Houses!

By: Allison Ralph

Have you ever wondered if real estate agents are tempted to buy what they sell?

The answer is a resounding “YES” and while It may not happen quite so regularly in a densely populated market where one cookie cutter house or apartment is much like the another, when you work in a sparsely populated, mountainous area, the pickings are rich and diverse.

In the last three and a half years I have fallen in love with pretty much every property I have listed here, from a mountain top mansion with stunning views to a log home nestled deep in the woods. They are all special to me while in my care, until they are sold to their new owners. The same goes for most of the ones I have shown to Buyers as well. I still think about “the one that got away” – the prettiest little cabin with a creek running by the bedroom windows and under the deck. So, when a stately 85 year-old something caught my eye recently, I knew I had to make a move on it and fast!

Why would I buy a very old (for America) house in the middle of town I hear you ask. The answer is, because it’s a Sears Modern Home No. 118, also known as The Clyde. While that may mean nothing to some, to those in the know, Sears Kit homes have a special and unique place in American history.

The Sears and Roebuck Company were the Amazon of their time, giving people from all over the country the opportunity to purchase a myriad of items by mail through their catalog. That catalog also included houses, with the Sears Company selling some 70,000 homes between 1900 and 1940. A great many of these houses can be found in the Mid-

West, but some made it as far South as Florida and all points in between. Anywhere the railways ran, there was an opportunity to bring in a kit home with speed and efficiency. Thereafter, the new homeowner could build the home at their leisure, following the precise directions provided by Sears.

Sears developed a multitude of different models for prospective homebuyers, from modest cabins to opulent mansions. They provided design services for their customers, so that any plan could be altered to fit individual needs – they even started adding bathrooms (en-suites were still way off in the future). Today you can buy reproduction catalogs, detailing the variety of options available and the prices being charged for the home in the year the catalog was made available. Their popularity is further appreciated when you look at the value they offered in comparison with 21st Century buildings. Even allowing for inflation, a Clyde that cost $2608.00 in 1918, would cost just under $50,000 for the material in 2021 dollars. Don’t forget – that doesn’t include the land or the labor!

If you are going to be in the area and want to do a bit of Turn of the Century house spotting, then Western North Carolina has a virtual cornucopia of homes for you to come and discover. Drop by my Clyde in Andrews and say “Hello” while you’re here. Who knows, maybe I can find you a house to love too.

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