Why would anyone buy a kit home out of a mail-order catalog and then dedicate months (if not years) of their life to assembling those 12,000 pieces of house? Well, one of the big reasons was money.
Buying and building a kit home gave the ambitious homeowner about 30-50% instant equity (compared to the cost of a traditional stick-built home). If someone was willing to devote their nights and weekends to working on a home of their own, they’d probably end up with a small mortgage and nice bit of equity.
There were other reasons, too, such as pride in a well-done job, and precision and attention to detail. As the old saying goes, if you want something done right, do it yourself. A house is the largest financial investment most people will ever make. And it’s more than just an investment: The people building these homes understood that their home would endure for generations, offering not only themselves but future generations a piece of the American Dream and some financial stability.
If you look at this image below (from the 1931 Wardway catalog), you’ll see that the new homeowner claims that buying and building a Wardway Devonshire created a mortgage payment (15 year note) that was $31 less than their prior rental payment.
In a time before 401ks and retirement investment programs, making mortgage payments on one’s own home was considered the best possible retirement planning for the average family. Presumably, if the Parker Family remained in the Wardway Devonshire, they owned the house outright by 1946, and the frosting on the cake was that they saved $5,580 with the cheaper monthly housing expense! ($31 x 180 months)