While the housing market has received a great deal of bad press lately, people are still buying, selling, and building houses. The process might not be as simple (or as cheap) as it once was, but today's home buyers may have more advantages than those of ten years ago, due to the depressed market conditions. This might be just the time to look for your "dream home"--keeping in mind a few simple facts.
The choice to buy or build is never easy--there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Buying is usually much less stressful on the buyer than building is on the builder. on the other hand, buyers often have to settle for a house that lacks some of the amenities they desire; builders can build to their own specifications. Buyers may also have the advantage in price; in an area where houses are selling for $125 a square foot, building a comparable structure will often run $150-$175 a square foot. Buyers usually move in immediately after the sale; building can take a long time, particularly if your contractor is working on several projects at once (some of them with higher priority than yours). A good compromise may be buying an existing structure and renovating it to your specifications, although this will involve hiring contractors and buying materials, which can quickly become expensive and time-consuming. Some people attempt the "do-it-yourself" option, but unless you are experienced, this will probably mean mistakes and frustration, at least at the beginning of your project.
In the end, whether you are looking for a lot to build or a house to buy, a good realtor can help you assess the market, decide on your buying range of prices, and secure a deal that will best fit your lifestyle and budget.