The difference is that in Alaska they don't have beaucratic regulations crammed down their throats. If they want to build a house, they just build it, no moronic building code, electric code, plumbing code, zoning code, etc.
In the lower states your permit fees will cost you $50,000 before you pour your first yard of concrete for the foundation. That is why folks buy trailers at the same price one can buy the stupid permit fees for a house.
There is one exception. If you can build your "house" under 200 square feet or is it 120 square feet, this structure is considered temporary and therefore not subject to as stringent of a permit process.
FYI I have lived with 4 others in 400 square feet for 20 years and have built several houses and remodeled several more. Just to hook up to water/sewer/electric/gas/phone/cable will cost well over $20,000 with little to no work required. Its all tied up in beacrautic red tape and permits. Basic Permit for building $3k then by the time you get all the other permits for electrical, plumbing, mechanical, zoning, drainage, sidewalk curb cut, etc you have tacced on another $20k. This is why folks don't build smaller houses. All of the upfront money is tied up in the pi-ss pot dictators running our building departments. Thus, its just as cheep upfront to build a larger home as it is to build a small home. This is from the builders perspective. The true homeowner usually doesn't want that large of a house until they are trying to make a statement about their wealth and prestige.
Most folks would be pragmatic enough if they had to pay for the house without permitting fees would usually choose the smaller cheeper house. But, because permitting fees are so astronomical, a new larger house that retains its value better, costs just as much as a far far far older smaller rundown house needing repairs. Exceptions to this rule are where the view is paramount like in West Seattle etc and the land plots(house sizes) were decided back when there weren't horrendously expensive permits and hoops to jump through.
I would understand the permitting process for large apartment buildings, and high rises, but your own home? No.
A little FYI for those looking to "build" their own small house. Be prepared for h-e-l-l from tin pot dictators in the building and land department because you aren't a licensed and bonded contractor(AKA throwing money down a rat hole). They won't actually tell you the rules, they will just say, NO, that is not right and leave. By law they have to actually tell you in most places exactly what is wrong, but usually they jerks will throw a numbered code that you are in violation of and leave instead of saying what is actually wrong. Of ocurse same said inspectors won't even call the contractors on the carpet, or if they do, they still sign it off because they see said contractors all the time.