Looking for the dream house is like hunting for the ideal man - or woman. You simply won't find one. Which is why the option of building your own home seems, on the face of it, highly appealing. Just think: you start from scratch on a picturesque plot of land you've chosen; you know exactly when it will be completed and when you can move in; and when it's done, you'll know it's exactly the way you want it. Supposedly.

On the downside, it can present a lot of hassle. Even when you've bought your site - in the south-east, this will cost you an average pounds 69,000 for a tenth of an acre, compared with just pounds 18,000 in Scotland - there are still some tricky hurdles to jump: drawing up plans, getting planning approval and choosing the right builders, for starters.

Gabby and Martin Oxborrow live in a traditionally designed Cotswold cottage that they built themselves. This is what it cost: The basics Land in Wiltshire, pounds 49,000; legal and surveying fees, pounds 863; design and feasibility studies, pounds 294; mortgage and administration fee, pounds 375; services of a building inspector, pounds 212; insurance/employer's liability, pounds 536

The builders Labour costs, pounds 34,885; building materials, pounds 49,584; additional groundwork and landscaping, pounds 7,024

Connecting costs Water, pounds 916; gas, pounds 189; electricity, pounds 250; telephone (BT), pounds 400

Sub-contractors electrical work, pounds 3,310; carpentry, pounds 3,240; plumbing, pounds 6,500; plasterwork, pounds 3,815; outside decorating, pounds 385

Fittings floorboards, pounds 1,550; fully fitted kitchen, pounds 3,390; sanitaryware, pounds 2,150; fireplace, pounds 659; showers and water softener, pounds 984

Extras Interior decoration, pounds 600; lights and curtain rails, pounds 720

Total expenditure (including VAT refund of pounds 8,417 and all soft furnishings) pounds 163,404

Sources: package company Design and Materials; `Build It' magazine, which is offering a 25 per cent discount on subscription to `The Independent' readers. Call, 01203 256960