More on Jim Walter Homes…

In the last couple years, I’ve had probably about 20 requests for more information on Jim Walter Homes. As mentioned in a prior blog, the company started doing business in 1946 and ceased in 2009, having sold about 320,000 homes.

That’s a lot of houses.

Last week, Carmen Miller contacted me and asked if there was a way to authenticate a Jim Walter Home. (Carmen was interested because she had recently purchased an alleged Jim Walter Home in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.)

I thought and thought about her question, and couldn’t come up with a good answer.

As it turns out, I do some of my best thinking when I’m semi-conscious. Bolting upright about 4:30 this morning, I had my answer: Grantee Records.

Jim Walter Homes (like Sears) offered a really sweet deal on mortgages on their kit homes; easy payments, unusually low downpayments and lower-than-market interest rates. Using Grantee Records (where mortgages are recorded), I could look up “Jim Walter Homes.”

I immediately awakened in-house counsel from his slumbers, who put a damper on my brilliance, and pointed out that I would need trustee names. I replied, “Maybe that’s true, but I’m going to try ‘Jim Walter Homes’ and see what happens.”

I was surprised at how much I found: Four houses within the computerized records in Portsmouth, Virginia!

If you enjoy the following information, you should thank the architecture-loving angel that whispered in my ear at 4:30 am. And thank Carmen, too!  😀

To read more about Jim Walter Homes, click here.

Sometimes, I write about houses and sometimes, I write about heroes.

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house house

The map book (showing a physical address for this site) is housed in Norfolk County (see red arrow) which is in Chesapeake, about 45 minutes away from downtown Portsmouth. Using the legal description and some help from my friend Milton, we figured out where this house is located. The trustees names are given as W. S. Sullivan and R. E. Kane, but the deed was found by searching for "Jim Walter Homes." At the top, this document references a "deed of satisfaction," showing that the mortgage has been paid in full. Notice the letterhead.

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Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above.

Here is the house in Portsmouth, referenced in the deed above. It was built in 1974, and unfortunately, I wasn't able to find this model in my 1972 catalog. It's endured some remodeling. Who knows what it looked like 40 years ago.

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Honestly, Im not sure what this document is, but I suspect its a cover letter for legal documents. Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouths land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

This appears to be nothing more than a cover letter for legal documents (which I did not find). Nonetheless, it was on file in the city of Portsmouth's land records, and gives the address of another Jim Walter House.

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This one, I was able to identify.

I was able to identify this house on Highland Avenue. Construction started in 1988.

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Its The Oxford.

It's "The Oxford."

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Highland

Fancy name; simple house.

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match

According to city records, the house on Highland Avenue is 24 by 38 (912 square feet).

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Last

This also shows a trustee name of Robert E. Kane (for JW Homes). On another note, I can not make out the owner's last name. Is it Lyttle?

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And heres the little JW house that the Lyttles bought.

And here's the little JW house that the Lyttle's built on Holladay Street.

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As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And theres one I still cant locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that its located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, Legal description attached, but there was no attachment.

As my buddy Bill Inge said, Jim Walter Homes were - for the most part - pretty modest dwellings and in the final years of the company, their quality apparently took a nose-dive. Still, it was fun to find four of these homes in Portsmouth. And there's one I still can't locate! It was purchased by Sidney Allen Weiss, Sr., and all we know is that it's located in Portsmouth, VA. The deed says, "Legal description attached," but there was no attachment.

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Jim Walters obituary, as it appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat on January 8, 2000.

Jim Walter's obituary, as it appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat on January 8, 2000.

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I’m on the hunt for a few more (earlier) catalogs. If you find one, please drop me a note!

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20 Comments

  1. ShariD

    Looks like “Lytle” ~ one “t”. Congrats on finding them! I’m sure you’ll find more!

  2. ShariD

    In 1987, according to the document shown above, that house cost $112,320.00 ? Wow!

  3. Sears Homes

    I saw that, too.

    That has to be a typo. That’s just crazy.

  4. ShariD

    It is crazy. If it were a typo or misprint on a legal document, it would certainly have to be either corrected clearly, or discarded and done again.

    But, I also did the math so to speak, according to the figures given on the paperwork.

    And it comes out to that crazy figure! I can’t imagine why anyone would pay so much for that sort of a house anywhere. Oy vey!

  5. Lewanne Palmer

    We have been looking for the floor plans of our jim walter home and came across your site.

    We have seen the 1971 catalog and the closest design to ours (built in ’77-’78) is the Comanche.

    Have you found any more recent catalogs or floor plans? Thanks!!

    Lewanne Palmer

  6. Roger

    I am a former employee of Jim Walter Homes with over 30 years of knowledge of the product and home designs/plans.

    I can usually tell a Jim Walter home just from photos.

    If you need some help identifying the homes and specific models, just email me.

  7. Roger

    ShariD: The document you saw is not a typo.

    Jim Walter Homes financing was a Retail Installment Credit Sale.

    Therefore, the price listed is not the selling price of the home, but rather the total of all payments.

    For example, a $300/month payment for 30 years (360 months) would be an Installment price of $108,000.

    The price of the home was likely around $34,000 in this example since most sales were financed at a 10% interest rate.

  8. Andrea

    My parents purchased a Jim Walter home that is located in Washington, TX.

    They no longer have the deed to the home and I am trying to find out how to go about getting one.

    If you know of how to obtain one, please email me instead of responding on the blog (I just happened onto this page).

    I look forward to hearing from anyone who can assist. Thank you

  9. Sergio Lopez

    I’d love to learn more about the two-bedroom models.

  10. Jenn

    I can understand reminiscing on the era (and not to be crass), what exactly is so special about a Jim Walters Sears home?

    I purchased one as a first time home buyer in NC, in 2002.

    I’ve had several folks (older than me) say, “Oh yeah, this is one of those Jim Walters Homes from the early 1960s, and we lived in one when I was kid! I remember…”

    That’s all well and good, but in my particular experince, I have discovered a mulititude of issues.

    I thought back then that real 2x4s meant that the houses were built better, and were strong, not like the houses you see built in 2018.

    Are there other owners of Jim Walter Homes that have found issues in their home, prior remodeling? Have you see a bedroom floor that didn’t quite make it to the exterior wall?

    Any advice on building on and remodeling in a Jim Walters Home would be a real blessing right now.

    Did they let you drink on the job back then!!?? lol!

    I am sure my ignorance of the Jim Walter days is obvious, but in all seriousness, if anyone has a minute to respond and enlighten me, may give me insight as to some of the problems I am facing.

    Do I patch and run or should I invest even more so the Jim Walters name can live on?
    thank you for your time

  11. Dale Wolicki

    Jenn, Jim Walters and Sears had nothing to do with each other.

    Many people post questions here about postwar builders such as Jim Walters, who operated throughout the eastern states from 1946 to 2008.

    If your house was built in 1960s, it’s moving up on fifty years of age and its time for serious repairs, and if someone did a bad remodel prior to you taking ownership that is even worse.

    Chances are you would be happier upgrading to new house and avoiding all the troubles a big renovation requires.

    I speak from experience, having renovated several houses, including my current residence (a 1952 ranch wth a bad 1980s renovation). The neighbors probably hoped it would be demolished and replaced with a new house.

    My friend Rose might have additional comments.

  12. KMC

    @Roger
    I have just purchased a Jim Walters home in Georgia. I have a copy of the floor plan and it was built reverse. It was built in 1985 I believe and is 2 story (actually 1.5 story); however, I can not find the name of the plan or one like it online. Do you remember any of the 2 story plans?!

  13. Beth Dorsey Powell

    My grandfather and sons built many Jim Walter homes in SW Georgia. My Dad and his brother just got back from Hartsfield, Ga. (They grew up there.) The first JW they built is still there.

  14. KH

    I grew up in the “Rambler”. Lol. Somewhere I have an old black and white photo of it when it was new and there was a Jim Walter sign nailed to a pine tree in front. I remember I found the brochure in my cloest once and that is how I knew the name. It stuck with me all these years. It was a tiny house. It didn’t feel that small at the time but I was just a kid. The joke in my family was always that it had to be the best built Jim Walter home in the country because it was on land given to us by my grandfather and he was nitpicking the workers throughout the whole project! I do remember it felt pretty solid. It had hardwood floors. As cheap as it was I still think about it alot. Sadly it burned to the ground in the mid 80’s. Thank you for posting this. It is nice to see that old place again.

  15. Stephanie Murphy

    I have a Jim Walters home, it is The Oxford floor plan and at this point has not been changes. I live in southeast Missouri. My uncle purchased the home years ago, after his passing my father inherited it. About 8 years ago I purchased it.

  16. Melanie Dunlap

    @Roger
    Hello,
    We are purchasing a stilt home that is supposed to be a Jim Walter’s home, in Cocoa FL 1983. Please email me so I can send you pictures. melanie8dunlap@gmail.com

  17. Judy Shearer

    Roger :

    I am a former employee of Jim Walter Homes with over 30 years of knowledge of the product and home designs/plans.

    I can usually tell a Jim Walter home just from photos.

    If you need some help identifying the homes and specific models, just email me.

    Ro

  18. Judy Shearer

    Roger, I am looking for siding end caps for a1979 Jim Walter
    Home.

    They are of woodgrain texture, aluminum or vinyl
    11″ long. I have searched for a long time.

    Thanking you in advance.

  19. Walter Zimmerman

    On 8/31/2019, I turned 77 years of age. I learned putting up batter boards to square up the start the ground up location, digging footings with a pick and shovel, mixing mortar, block laying. Then laying the sub-floor and/or finish floor, framing complete.

    Caulking, shellacing over knots in the wood siding to keep them from burning through the paint making a very ugly spot. painting & perfection building Jim Walters Homes in the late 1950’s and the early 1960’s until Vietnam called me.

    As in every trade or job there are some that do sloppy work, some mediocre & others instill pride & perfection. Dad and I were close to the same size, but he was left handed & I was right handed and that was a great advantage.

    We strived for perfection on ever phase. We worked from sun-up to sun down! I would bet $1,000.00 that every house we built is standing to this very day, if maintained correctly and treated for termites.

    Preventive maintenance is a key factor whether a Jim Walters Home or a 1987 Camaro Z28 classic car. My wife and I even bought a Jim Walters Home in 1987 finished on the outside and ready for paint on the inside.

    It still looked nice when my pastor and I were driving around checking out places we lived at on a trip in early 2019. We are buying 63 acres I will most likely use a Jim Walters Home floor plan like we had before in 1987.

    It’s all we two need and it’s all going to the six Grandchildren in due time. I’ve always had a place in my heart for Jim Walters Homes due to learning a trade that I advanced to Superintendent in my mid 30’s on a shopping mall. I really enjoyed this site. Thanks

  20. Walter Zimmerman

    Dad and I were building a Jim Walters Home in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and an older retired carpenter across the way was building a concrete block home. He came over one day and laughed at us, saying the first tornado that comes through will tear the house to splinters and his will still be standing.

    We chuckled and said, “That’s Gods call.” We had all the framing complete and braced off extra good as usual.

    That night a tornado came through, lifted all our house off the solid footing, carried it 100 feet toward that mans block home and set it down, everything was still nailed in place.

    His block home was torn apart and he never came to talk to us again. We built Jim Walter Homes from the Wilmot Arkansas / Louisiana line to Greers Ferry Lake / Heber Springs, Arkansas to Dequeen, Arkansas where Glen Cambell was born.

    Jim Walter Homes had us build a standard shell home on The Village Shopping Center Mall lot to give away one Christmas in Little Rock, Arkansas. Then put a Coleman Dairy Truck on the roof to show how strong & quality a house it was.

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