Man people dream of buying a brand-new home. In Japan, realizing that dream usually means settling for a factory-made house that looks like hundreds of its neighbors or a condominium that must be paid for even before it is built.

Though the purchase may represent the biggest outlay they'll ever make, new home-buyers have long had to abandon hope of finding a place that exactly suits their needs and instead conform to the constraints of constructors. With almost all housing options having similar floor plans -- a dining-kitchen area, living room and three bedrooms -- it's as if you must be married with two children to be considered a worthy client.

Recently, however, cracks have begun to appear in the rigid walls this seller's market has erected around itself, as a visit to any bookstore will soon reveal. There, for those no longer content to pay dearly for the standard setup, DIY books detailing how to go about achieving your true dream home line the shelves.