Based on the idea that anything you do yourself, whether it's making dinner or babies, is more meaningful than just buying it, my wife, Sarah, and I decided to build a house. We lacked only skill, money, labor, and land...
For skills, we signed up for one of Home Depot's free building classes. After two hours a man missing at least a thumb taught us how to build a lovely flower box. Skills - check.
With only a small budget to work with, we decided to build abroad, specifically an outer island of Palau in the western Pacific where we used to spend weekends together. Out there, we thought we could avoid the kind of extra costs associated with things like walls and building codes. (We figured zip-up canvas would substitute for walls; hope for engineering.)
For labor, we sent an email to everyone we'd ever met asking if they'd like to help us build. The subject line - "Swiss Family Robinson Meets the Jackson Five" - must have worked. About a dozen friends would eventually come out to help us.
Finding land was the most difficult. Foreigners aren't allowed to own property in Palau or just about anywhere else in the Pacific but they can lease. It took us months of negotiation with an extended clan and the blessing of the island's matriarchs and chiefs, but we eventually secured a twenty-year lease on a few acres of coastline.
Turns out the hardest part of building was simply getting supplies to the site - the closest hardware store was 75 miles away - by boat - and frequently out of such basics as ladders and wheel barrows. Once to the island, we still had to carry the supplies across - usually by bike.
Five months later, we had a house. Or at least a bungalow. Or maybe just a deck with a roof, but at least we could take a hot-shower by the sea (thanks to a water-catchment system, two solar panels, a car battery, a little pump, and a propane heater.)
Though a good experience, next time we'll probably just buy a house. Or even better, rent.