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Best home design software 2021

Best home design software 2021
(Image credit: iStock)

Armed with the best home design software, you can achieve your dream home layout by visualizing your designs in 3D before any renovations take place. That’s because these brilliant house design software programs help you see exactly how your home might look, before any work is given the green light. 

Whether you are fixing up your home, or moving to a new one, the best home design software makes bringing your home goals to life even easier. Many of the top-rated options have high-quality rendering tools meaning you can picture how your home might look at a specific time of day or under exact lighting and you can view the whole location of your masterplan too. 

Whether you want to spend a small fortune, or you are looking for a free program, there is a home design software program for you. The free programs are handy and give you a taster of what is to come. There are also a number of brilliant home design software programs you can trial over a certain period before you buy. But either way, one of the most important things to take note of, when it comes to deciding what program to pick, is the number of objects the software comes with and how easy they are to use. If you’re looking for more ways to transform your space, discover our guides to the best interior design software and the best landscape design software.


1. Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design: Best home design software overall

Best home design software: Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design

(Image credit: Future)

A superb all-rounder that includes every feature you could conceivably need

Reasons to buy
+Useful wizards + Helpful tutor panel +Excellent tools
Reasons to avoid
-A little pricier than rivals

This was our favorite home design app in 2019, and the latest version retains its crown. It's a little more expensive than some rivals but not by much, and that extra cash gets you a ton of extra features including a massive library of objects for indoors and out. For example, if you wanted to put in one of the best hot tubs but are unsure where to place it. This is the Landscape and Decks version of the app so it's just as good outside as it is for the inside.

One of our favorite features in Virtual Architect Ultimate is its wizards. There are lots of them, and they make it easy to create even fairly complex results – so for example there's an entire House Builder Wizard that takes you from foundations to a finished building in no time at all. You're not limited to the wizards, though: the design tools in the app are well thought out and sensibly organized.


2. Home Designer Pro: Best home design software for professionals  

Home Designer Pro review: image of rendered home

(Image credit: Chief Architect)

A meticulously detailed program perfect for extensive customization and vivid renderings.

Reasons to buy
+Endless options for building  +Detailed to the highest quality  
Reasons to avoid
-Seriously pricey  -Not the most intuitive  

 

There’s no doubt that Home Designer Pro could complete any home design task you wanted, from sunken swimming pools to walk-in wardrobes. It creates visually stunning 3D images and renderings, as well as ultra-realistic walkthroughs, and it’s also pretty practical, with built-in cost estimating sheets. And don’t get us started on the extensive furniture and object library available, which has thousands of branded items ready to place into your virtual home. 

If you’re a professional, then you’ll likely see the price of Home Designer Pro as an investment considering just how extensive it is. But for the casual user, the price point is likely to be a little staggering. Plus, it might be a little daunting if you’re brand new to this type of software without automatic tutorials to guide you through. Overall in terms of the software however, it’s hard to see Home Designer Pro beaten.


3. TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape 2020: Best home design software for Mac

Best home design software: TurboFloor Plan Home & Landscape Deluxe

(Image credit: TurboCAD)

Also an excellent home design app for value

Reasons to buy
+Easy to learn +Build Green option +Useful video tutorials
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly limited compared to pro version

We've given TurboFloorPlan two gongs here: one for its quality as a Mac app, and one for its value for money on both Windows and Mac platforms. At $49.99 it isn't a lot of money but you get an awful lot of features. TurboFloorPlan comes from the same stable as the famous TurboCAD design app, and it's a very polished and mature product: it doesn't suffer from the interface quirks or performance and stability issues that plague some of the cheaper apps out there. 

It's easy to learn, its drawing tools are very good and it feels more like using an illustration program than a home design one. We mean that as a compliment, as it's easy to create fairly complex designs with the minimum of effort thanks to the format painter and object distribution tools.

We also liked the Build Green option, which can help you make more environmentally responsible choices when you design your project. It won't turn an environmental horror into a hero, but it does help you find ways to make your build a little more efficient and reduce its environmental footprint.


4. HomeStyler: best home design software for branded items 

Homestyler review

(Image credit: HomeStyler)

Perfect for keeping up with the latest trends and super easy to use.

Reasons to buy
+Huge variety of branded items and furniture+Lots of high-quality rendering options   
Reasons to avoid
-Some features aren’t quite ready -Overly ambitious features in some parts  

HomeStyler is the product of two huge retailing names, Alibaba and the Easyhome group, meaning there’s little surprise that this app goes big when it comes to furniture and merchandising. Available on both browsers and on an app, there’s also a free version of HomeStyler that’s unbelievably easy to use. You’ll be able to have it up and running in no time, with a neat template to help you make your first steps. 

Using HomeStyler is a lot like playing the Sims, without the Sims themselves. It’s a lot of fun building your structures, with drag and drop walls and floors, and there’s, even more, to enjoy when it comes to decoration, with an extensive prop library. We especially liked the option that allows you to explore a whole trend’s worth of furniture, which would be particularly useful to anyone lacking inspiration for their decor. 


5. Sweet Home 3D 6.2: Best free home design app

Best home design software: Sweet Home 3D Review

(Image credit: Sweet Home 3D)

Surprisingly good for an app that doesn't cost any money

Reasons to buy
+Fast+Free
Reasons to avoid
-Limited features -A little clunky-looking 

Sweet Home 3D proves that you don't always get what you pay for. With a price tag as low as zero, it's nevertheless a really useful app. You wouldn't want to use it to design a skyscraper, but it's brilliant for small projects such as studio apartments and simple outbuildings.

Sweet Home 3D comes in two versions. There's the free download, and a paid-for version that costs around $13. That latter one is the same app but it comes with a much bigger library of objects (1,400 compared to the free one's 100) that you can drag and drop into your creation.

It's not the prettiest app but it's pretty good. The 3D view updates in real time as you change things in 2D, it's really easy to create even fairly complex structures and you can import photos to make things look more realistic. The export options aren't brilliant and creating realistic 3D images takes a very long time if you want anything bigger than a postage stamp, but these are very minor niggles in an app that doesn't cost any money.


6. DreamPlan Home Designer: Best home design software for simple projects

Best home design software: DreamPlan Home Designer Review

(Image credit: NCH Software)

A decent app for simpler home design projects

Reasons to buy
+Easy to use +You can work in 3D mode 
Reasons to avoid
-Navigation isn't brilliant -Smaller library than some

This is very much aimed at home and hobbyist users, and it's cheaper than its similar rivals. It's easy to learn and to use, its 3D mode is fine and while the included library isn't as large as some other apps' libraries, it covers the essentials and it's easy to adjust the dimensions of the supplied items to get them just-so. It's a decent app for straightforward projects such as planning a deck, experimenting with ideas for extensions or working out how much furniture you can stuff into the front room.


7. Home Designer Suite 2020: Best home design software for CAD-style tools

Best home design software: Home Designer

(Image credit: Carrie Marshall)

A little intimidating but the online help is good and there's a free trial

Reasons to buy
+Excellent camera controls +Excellent object library +Good drawing and editing tools
Reasons to avoid
-Interface is a little intimidating

We like Home Designer Suite 2020 a lot, but at $99 it's more expensive than the other apps here: that price puts it up against their Pro editions, not the entry level ones. We'd recommend looking for deals as the previous version was dramatically discounted.

It's not the easiest app to learn from scratch but once you've got the hang of things it's nice enough and includes a good selection not just of home design tools but CAD-style drawing tools including shapes and text boxes. 

The library is good for both interior fittings and exterior features, and there's a particularly good plant chooser that even enables you to search for plants that'll attract butterflies and birds.


8. SketchUp Free: Simple and free

Best home design software: SketchUp Free Review

(Image credit: SketchUp)

This lightweight 3D design app is fine for simple projects

Reasons to buy
+Really flexible +Brilliant tutorial panel +Great viewing features
Reasons to avoid
-Not strictly a home design app

SketchUp Free is a cut-down version of SketchUp Pro, which you may have seen on home renovation TV programmes. It can do pretty much anything its $299 sibling can do, but the import and export options are much more limited.

SketchUp isn't just a home design app; it's a 3D design app that you can use to design homes. That means it lacks the wizards, samples and objects of dedicated home apps, and while there's a giant online selection of other people's plans and objects it can be very tedious to navigate. But if you're willing to put up with that, SketchUp Free is easy to pick up, fast to use and includes superb camera options that enable you to see your design from every conceivable spot.


9. RoomSketcher: Best home design software for ease of use

Best home design software: RoomSketcher Review

(Image credit: RoomSketcher)

A really good app let down by a not-so-good pricing model

Reasons to buy
+Exceptionally easy to use +Great drawing tools +Branded items eg IKEA furniture
Reasons to avoid
-Pricing 

RoomSketcher may well be the easiest home design software we've ever reviewed. It has a simple, fast and intuitive interface and it delivers silky-smooth performance even on underpowered hardware. There is a free version but it lacks too many key features to be genuinely useful; the paid-for versions include every feature you're likely to need and they're designed well enough that even complete beginners can use them.

The downside, and it's a big one, is that buying the app doesn't mean you get unlimited use of it. Despite the price being an annual subscription it limits what you can do with the app, so for example the $49.99/year plan only gives you enough credits to save five different plans before you need to buy more.

Best home design software FAQ

What is the best home design software for Mac?

In our search to find the most useful home design software programs, we found that the best home design software for Mac by far was TurboFloor Plan Home & Landscape 2020. It has a dedicated Mac app, and wins out due to its extreme level of detail. You can keep mood boards assigned to different projects, and even see how particular plants will look when they’ve grown in a few years time.

TurboFloor Plan Home & Landscape 2020 also has an extensive object library available, with 4,700 items for you to play around with. That means you can truly envision how your renovations will take shape, and have fun testing out different color schemes and styles. 


What is the best home design app for iPad?

There are several home design apps you can download on your iPad. The highest rated app in the iOS app store is Home Design 3D Gold. It is quite intuitive and feels more like a game than an architectural or interior design application. It allows you to create both 2D and 3D floor plans by placing doors, windows, walls and more. The app also has a sizable library of furniture, plants, decorations and other objects.

In addition to displaying a photo-realistic 3D preview of your design, this app has augmented reality features. You need the ARKit to make it work, but once you have that installed, you can take a tour of your design as if it were already built. This is invaluable for spotting flaws and getting a better idea of how you want your home to look.

You can download this app for $11.99. However, if you're reluctant to purchase the app, you can start out on Home Design 3D for free. It's a watered-down version of the program, but it still has many of the great features found in the Gold version.


What is the best home design app for me?

After testing the best home design programs around, we decided that Virtual Architect Ultimate is our top choice for putting plans together for your renovations. The new version, Virtual Architect 10.0, is a visually impressive program, as well as being easy to use with the excellent tutorials available. It’s ideal for anyone just starting out on their home design journey who might be a little daunted by the process.

The updated version also has improved 3D visuals and lighting, so you can really get a sense of how things will come to look when you’re finished, and you can work on outdoor areas as well as just your interiors, so you get more for your money. That’s why we think Virtual Architect is the best option for most people: it's easy to learn, it enables you to get things done quickly and it also includes lots of advanced features to help you design every part of your home.


What’s the best home design software for kitchens?

Using home design software for the first time might seem daunting, especially when it comes to creating plans for a new kitchen, arguably one of the most important rooms in your house. 

That’s why we think that Virtual Architect Ultimate is your best choice when you’re on a mission to get a brand new kitchen. It has a built-in tutorial window to assist you as you design, as well as features such as one-click window placement, so you can get the groundwork done easily.

Virtual Architect also has an extensive prop library, including a range of different appliances, so that you can try out multiple kitchen styles before you spend any cash on those expensive purchases. You can even add in pictures with this design software, and mock-up designs of your family sitting at your new breakfast bar if you wanted to. 


How much does the best home design software cost?

That depends on what you want it to do. You can pick up a really good home design app for free, but it's going to be very limited compared to the paid-for products. For home and hobbyist users the sweet spot is currently around $49 for a do-everything app, rising to around $99 for a home design app with a really big object library and lots of advanced tools. It's possible to spend much more but we think that for most people, there's no need to go beyond $99 unless you intend to make a lot of plans.

The majority of home design apps are one-off purchases, but some are moving to the same subscription model we've seen on smartphone and tablet apps. If one of the apps we've reviewed is subscription-based, we've made that clear in our review. 

Watch out for extra charges, too. One of the apps we reviewed charges a subscription but also limits key features such as how many plans you can make. Once you hit the limit you'll need to get your credit card out to get more. We're not fans of this approach.


What should you look for in home design software?

When you're considering which home design software to buy, it's important to think about what your project actually needs. There's no point in getting a cheap app that doesn't include landscaping features if the outdoors are a key part of your project (and if all you want to do is landscaping, you may find there's a better solution in our guide to the best landscaping design software), and there's no point in paying for a do-everything app if you just want to work out the best place to put some IKEA wardrobes in your new apartment. If that's you, you might want to check out our best interior design software buying guide.

You'll need to make sure that the app you're considering works on the kind of computer you have. Most of the apps here, but not all of them, are available for both Windows and Mac – but some aren't, and some others charge more for the Mac version than they do for the Windows one.

When it comes to specific features, these are the key ones to consider:

2D and 3D views
Do you want to create very realistic 3D models of your design, or do you just want to create two-dimensional floor plans? If you do want 3D, are you okay with static 3D images or do you want to create virtual walkthroughs where you can move around your building as if you were playing a video game?

Object libraries
Are you going to be designing empty spaces or will you want to fill them with furniture and photo frames? Some home design apps concentrate just on the actual buildings, but many come with libraries containing hundreds or even thousands of objects that you can drag and drop into your creations. Some libraries also include extensive ranges of textures such as floors, stone and even paint that you can use to make your 3D models look more realistic.

Export options
Will you be creating plans and then sending them electronically to your architect or contractor? If so, find out what formats they can handle and make sure your chosen app can export in those formats.


What home design software do the pros use?

When you ask home design professionals about their chosen app, you tend to get the same answer: AutoCAD. It's been the industry standard for designers since the earliest days of computer-aided design, and it's continually evolved to take advantage of ever-better hardware. It's the best in the business but it has a price tag to match: expect to pay more than $1,000.


What home design software do they use on HGTV's Fixer Upper?

Fans of the hit show Fixer Upper will be desperate to know which software Joanna Gaines uses to layout her designs before the renovations begin. The home design software in question is in fact SketchUp Pro, which is the rather pricey professional version of the free SketchUp program. 

Given its extensive prop library and models to pick from, it’s no surprise that this software made its way onto one of the biggest home design shows around. And if you want to recreate the Fixer Upper experience yourself, you can even try your hand at the free SketchUp software that’s available on web browser. 


What home design software does HGTV's Property Brothers use?

The identical twins who find and renovate run-down homes use very impressive computer-generated walkthroughs made in an app called Neezo Renders, which is well out of most people's price range: we understand that the Property Brothers pay around $10,000 an episode for their walkthroughs. If your budget can't quite stretch to that, many of the apps here can generate 3D walkthroughs for considerably less money.

Finally, you might be interest in our 10 top tips for smart home design.

TTR Contributor