Ranch style homes are usually long and low with a bare minimum of interior and exterior decoration. The idea is to create a casual and informal lifestyle, usually with access to the outdoors via large plate glass windows, sliding glass doors, and patios or decks. Ranch style home plans normally imply a single story construction with a low and long roof line, with a cross- or side- gabled or hip roof.
When you are searching for a designer, search for one that is local to the area where you want your home built. Typically, local designers will have a better knowledge of the region, the laws, and the other issues surrounding your new house building project.
Ranch style architecture originated in the United States in the 1920's, and it became very popular after World War II as cities expanded into suburbs and inexpensive tract homes were needed by a growing populace. Ranch style houses are most popular where land is inexpensive and the weather is mild, since these homes particularly lend themselves to outdoor living. The low, earth hugging look with clean, modern lines of the ranch style is derived from Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie style architecture.
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.