The property owner can seek a variance to exceed the "building envelope," the allowable area that a home can occupy on a lot. However, the process is often lengthy and there's no guarantee that permission will be granted. Local zoning boards and community organizations often require a house be set back a certain distance from the street. Before purchasing a corner lot, find out if front-yard setback regulations apply to the lot's front and side-street boundaries. This could substantially reduce the area available for a home's footprint. Easements as well as natural features, like rock outcroppings and mature trees, may also influence where the house can be located.
There are a few aspects that you must finalize in your mind, before looking at the different online designs. You need to visualize the structure of the house with respect to whether there should be a basement, how many storeys you would like to have, the number of garages that you want, whether you wish to have any outside water pond, the size of the house, the sizes of the different bedrooms, kitchen, living area, etc., and the amenities that you want like bathroom tubs, sinks, and fireplace.
Drawing a good set of custom home plans involves integrating many different concepts and ideas into a solid and usable working plan. Many designers are able to come up with a unique or interesting preliminary design, but fail to deliver when its time to detail the house structure. They draw a pretty picture but have little or no understanding of how to translate that nice design into a working plan which the builder can understand.
One item to look for when evaluating a house plans' quality level is the number of structural sections which are shown on the plan. Highly detailed sets of plans will always cut lots of sectional views through the house to show every different roof framing situation. This might mean that 10 or 12 (or even more) sections need to be drawn for a large house plan. And even a small house plan should include 3 or 4 sections minimum. However, many home plans available today (especially plans purchased through inexpensive plan directories) cut corners in this department and only show one or two house section views. This means that the builder will have to guess at the rest of the house framing.