Plan your budget accordingly so that you don't get your hopes too high or settle for less than you deserve. That is, plan your budget based on what you can afford. If a half-million dollar home is in your dreams, make sure you can finance it - visit your accountant and bank manager beforehand so you know what budget you can realistically work with.
Exposed wooden or steel beams, flat roofs with large overhangs, and split levels to take advantage of the terrain, are also common accents associated with the contemporary style.
Aesthetics is in the eye of the beholder, and it depends upon the prevailing tastes of the time. A building's functionality, or fitness, is a matter of how well it accommodates the purposes for which it was built. Its structural integrity means soundness - will the building last over time? Historically speaking aesthetics has usually trumped fitness as the overriding factor in architectural design. Classical architecture was preoccupied with articulating features on walls and facades. Modern architecture is equally concerned with aesthetic formalities, such as form following function.
Know what to ask designers. You need to talk to these people before you choose one to work with and asking the right questions can make all the difference in the world. You need to find out how long they've been in the business of designing home plans, what they have done in the past, and see what they can do for you. Make sure you look at a collection of other houses they have designed; this will give you a solid idea of the quality of their workmanship and creative talent.