Best home design software 2019: design your dream home

The best home design software is a great start to designing your own dream home or make alterations to your current one. It’s a great way to visualise what your new home could look like inside and out, or how that modification you’d like to make would fit in with the rest of your property. 

Once you’re done designing your dream house, you can export the plans in formats architects, contractors and construction workers can use to bring your creation to life. 

Editor's Choice: Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design

This program earned the top spot in our review of the best home design programs. It includes everything you need to design a home and is one of the easiest programs to master.VIEW DEAL ON Nova Development

To find the best home design software, we used each program to design a single floor plan with common components like windows, doors, stairs and furniture. Our main scoring criteria was how realistic the software's images look, since the purpose of the software is to give end users an idea of what to expect as they modify and customize their homes.

In addition, we considered ease of use. This subjective evaluation was based on how long it took to learn to use each program, create a floor plan, design the menu and more. We also considered how often programs unexpectedly crashed and how many built-in support options they have. 

Finally, we compared the programs' features, scoring them on whether they have features such as roofing and electrical wizards, plumbing planning tools, and object libraries, and how easy they were to use. 

After more than 180 hours of testing the best home design programs on the market, Virtual Architect Ultimate is our top pick. It’s our favorite option for most people because it’s easy to use and learn and has advanced features to help you design every aspect of your home.

How much does home design software cost? 

Home design software can cost as little as $13, and inexpensive programs are great for making basic indoor layouts. A full-bodied program can cost up to $100 but is well worth the price if you want detailed control and are designing your entire property.

What should you look for in home design software? 

 To find the best home design software, we considered how difficult it is to get the hang of each application, particularly for people who don’t have experience with this type of program. 

We noted whether we needed to consult tech support or other help tools, such as video tutorials, to complete our review. Here are some other points to consider when choosing a house plan program as well as some of our insights from reviewing them.

ProductPriceOverall RatingEase of UseHome & Floor Plan DesignInterior & Room DesignLandscape & Garden DesignHelp & SupportEase of UseRoofs & Pitch WizardElectrical & Plumbing PlanningSample Home PlansImport Scanned Floor PlansFraming EditorDrag and DropTrace Floor PlanCost EstimatorMetric MeasurementsExport File FormatObject LibraryImport Third-Party ObjectsStair GeneratorCurved WallsCabinet DesignerTexturesAdditions & Remodeling ToolsPlant LibraryPlant EncyclopediaLandscape TemplatesTopography DesignerFence DesignerWater FeaturesDeck DesignerVideo TutorialsFAQsTelephone SupportWindowsmacOS
Virtual Architect Ultimate 8View Deal4/5555545A+A+DXF, BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF7500+SketchUp7500+$
TurboFloorPlan Home and Landscape Pro 20193.5/54.554.54.54.54.5AA45DXF, DWG, VRML4700+SketchUp3800+X
Punch Home & Landscape Design Premium 20View Deal3.5/54.554.54.554.5B+A45DXF, DWG, BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF4700+SketchUp4000+X
TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe 20193.5/54.55443.54.5AA45DXF, DWG, VRML2100+SketchUp1200+X
Home Designer Suite 2019View Deal3.5/54554.554BA31DXF, BMP, JPG, PNG6500+SketchUp, Trimble 3D Warehouse1200+X
Punch Home & Landscape Design Essentials 20View Deal3.5/5454454B+A45BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF4700+SketchUp3200+X
DreamPlan3/54.5432.544.5A-C1DDP65+SketchUp6+$
Total 3D Landscape & Deck Premium 12View Deal2.5/5342.5453A+B1015BMP, JPEG, TIFF800+Not Supported60+X
Sweet Home 3DView Deal2.5/53.534.513.53.5N/ACOnline GallerySVG, PDF1200+SketchUp, Trimble 3D Warehouse22+
Total 3D Home Design DeluxeView Deal2.5/5342.51.553A+B1015BMP, JPEG, TIFF700+60+X

Best overall

Virtual Architect Ultimate

Virtual Architect Ultimate

It scored an A+ in our ease of use tests – no other application received marks that high

Reasons to Buy
Is easy to learn
Has wizards and sample plans
Includes every tool and feature we look for
Reasons to Avoid
Isn't compatible with objects in Trimble 3D Warehouse
Must pay for phone support
Has fewer sample plans than other programs

Of all the home design programs we reviewed, Virtual Architect Ultimate is the best you can buy. It scored an A+ in our ease of use tests – no other application received marks that high.

Anyone can learn to use it, but you should expect to spend at least a few hours exploring all its tools and features.

This program includes nine highly detailed, predesigned floor plans to help you get started, and you can customize them to fit your needs. More advanced users can start from scratch and build a plan from the ground up. Virtual Architect strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and power, making it a good choice for novice designers and experts alike.

In case the preprogrammed designs aren't right for you, the program has a number of wizards that walk you through all the steps you need to follow to design kitchens, decks, bathrooms and more. It also has a large object library full of plumbing fixtures, lights, furniture, and other objects to put the finishing touches on your design.

One of the best things about this program is it automatically calculates what materials you need to make your dream home a reality. It also has a cost estimator that gives you an idea of how much money it will take to turn your design into a reality.

This is the most complete home design software we reviewed. With thousands of objects, wizards and tools, it has everything you need to design your entire home. No other program comes close.

Read our full Virtual Architect review

Best for Mac

Home Designer Suite

Home Designer Suite by Chief Architect

If you use a Mac, this is the program you want

Reasons to Buy
Works on Macs
Lets you scan and import physical plans
Is compatible with both SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse
Reasons to Avoid
Workflow takes some getting used to
No ponds or other water features
Small plant library

When you use a Mac, you often don’t have access to popular, useful programs. This is not the case with Home Designer Suite.

It’s comprehensive, covering all aspects of home design, both inside and out. If you use a Mac, this is the program you want.

Home Designer Suite is also one of the few programs that’s compatible with both SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse. As such, if you like a plan found in either one, you don’t have to rebuild it from scratch. Additionally, once you’re done designing, you can export your plans in multiple formats that can be used by professional builders and architects, making the handoff to contractors a cinch when construction season rolls around.

Another great thing about this application is it lets you customize every aspect of your digital design. In addition to having structural features such as walls, doors and stairs, it includes a library of more than 6,500 objects, including couches, beds, entertainment centers, plants, lamps and dressers. Nearly anything you can think of to put in your home, you can plan for with this program. However, its plant library is less than a third of the size of our favorite program's.

Read our full Home Designer Suite review

Best value

TurboFloor Plan Home & Landscape Deluxe

TurboFloor Plan Home & Landscape Deluxe 2019

If you don’t want to shell out extra cash for features you may never use, consider TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe

Reasons to Buy
Costs half as much as our top pick
Includes the essential features
Has video tutorials to teach you how to use the tools
Reasons to Avoid
No design wizards
No fence or water feature designers
No FAQs section on its website

You don’t always have to buy the best of the best to get what you need out of a program. If you don’t want to shell out extra cash for features you may never use, consider TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe.

It doesn’t have all the tools and features we looked for, but it has enough for most design projects and costs about half as much as its competitors.

This program comes loaded with 45 sample plans you can adjust and make your own. You can also import scanned floor plans. These features are great for beginners who don't know where to start as well as people who simply want to build on other great ideas.

TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe is an easy program to master. It scored an A in our ease of use tests. Rather than blindly click around the screen to figure out how to use its tools, you can consult the program’s video tutorials to learn how to use each one to its fullest potential. However, unlike Virtual Architect Ultimate, it doesn’t have wizards to walk you step by step through the room creation process. Even so, you should get the hang of it quickly.

Read our full TurboFloor Plan Home & Landscape Deluxe 2019 review

Best for small projects

DreamPlan

DreamPlan

It costs about $20 and has most of the essential features you need for small projects

Reasons to Buy
Is easy to use
Includes all the basic tools
Reasons to Avoid
Small object library
Substandard electrical and plumbing tools

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money or use a complicated program to design your home, DreamPlan may be right for you.

It costs about $20 and has most of the essential features you need for small projects. The program includes a roof wizard and can import scanned floor plans. In addition, its drag-and-drop interface was one of the easiest to use.

However, DreamPlan isn't a good option if you want to completely remodel your home. It’s simply not as powerful or comprehensive as other programs we reviewed. For example, it has weak electrical and plumbing planning tools, and it doesn’t include a cost estimator. Additionally, it has only one sample home plan and a small object library.

Read our full DreamPlan review

Most sample plans

Total 3D Landscape & Deck Premium

Total 3D Landscape & Deck Premium

Total 3D Landscape & Deck Premium has over 1,000 sample plans

Reasons to Buy
More than 1,000 sample plans
Reasons to Avoid
Difficult to use

Total 3D Landscape & Deck Premium has over 1,000 sample plans. Virtually all the home design programs we reviewed include sample plans, but they generally have fewer than 50.

As such, Total 3D Landscape & Deck Premium is a great choice if you’re not sure what you want or just like to have a lot of options.

However, when we tested this software, we found it was the hardest to master and use. It’s also missing some key features. For example, it lacks a framing editor, and you can't trace existing floor plans. Additionally, while the library has a respectable 800 items, it’s a far cry from our top pick’s library of over 7,500 objects.

Read our full Total 3D Landscape & Deck Premium review

Best free home design software

If you want free home design software, RoomSketcher Home Designer is worth considering. It’s a basic program that boils home design down to its most basic elements. It’s easier to use than any of the for-pay programs we reviewed. Its simple drag-and-drop interface and premade home elements make it easy enough for even the most novice user to design a home.

It includes basic tools that help you make a floor plan by placing walls, windows, stairs and doors as well as allow you to furnish the home with a variety of objects. None of these tools are as powerful as those found in for-pay programs. However, they can get you by if you don’t mind generic furniture, appliances and decorations.

One way the program stands out is you can design online. You can download the app and start a design, and your project uploads to the cloud. You can then access and work on the design on the RoomSketcher website from any computer with an internet connection. Also, the program's apps work on Android and iOS mobile devices, so you can work from anywhere.

A downside of the free version is you can only save five designs, though you can purchase five more for $10. This is a theme throughout the program – it frequently tells you that you can buy advanced features such as more objects and 2D and 3D floor plans.

2D & 3D views

All the programs we reviewed are 3D design software. As such, you can see your finished dream home in both 2D, which is flat and looks like a blueprint, and 3D, which has dimension, texture and color. The 3D view gives you a realistic idea of what the results will look like.

We were especially impressed with DreamPlan because it lets you design in 3D by dragging and dropping elements into your plan. It then automatically converts your plan into a 2D blueprint that includes dimensions. This is opposite from most programs, which require you to build structural components in the 2D view.

Sweet Home 3D also has a neat feature that lets you view the 2D and 3D plans simultaneously. As you place features and objects in your 2D design, you can see them automatically render in the 3D view. This makes it easy to spot floating objects – objects that should sit flush to the ground but don't. This error can happen when you build in 2D, and you can only see it in the 3D view. This feature also quickly checks that everything is balanced.

Object libraries

We counted the number of 3D objects in each program's library. Some apps, such as Punch Home & Landscape Design Premium, have thousands of items in a variety of styles, including tables and windows of various lengths. Others, such as Sweet Home 3D, have basic objects, such as windows and doors, that serve mostly as stand-ins – you can add and modify them to your desired dimensions, but you can’t customize how they look. We found that programs with large libraries make it easy to set up and accurately envision your finished design, since their items serve as more than just placeholders. These programs typically include more decorative items, such as vases, as well as robust window treatment options.

Most of the programs we tested allow you to supplement their libraries with thousands more objects by importing items from popular third-party websites. SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse are the most commonly used, and they have thousands of free objects. Most programs are only compatible with one third-party library, but one of our top picks, Home Designer Suite, can import objects from both databases.

Home design applications also include landscape objects in their libraries. As with the total object library, we counted the number of plants each program has. We noted whether they were legitimate outdoor plants or just indoor, potted plants. Typically, the more objects in the plant library, the easier it is to make your gardens look exactly how you want.

Import plans & tracing features

Another fun feature is a floor plan tracer. With this tool, you can open a picture of a home, a sample floor plan or a blueprint and trace the aspects you want to use in your own design. This is a great way to mesh a lot of ideas into one house plan. It is also valuable if you have your existing home’s plans and hope to design an addition. Using the trace tool, it's easy to extend a wall and create another space that is proportional with the measurements and layout of your current home. 

Landscape tools

Designing your yard is just as important as creating your home. In addition to a healthy plant library, look for software with other outdoor objects, such as barbecue grills and outdoor furniture, to help create a beautiful oasis. If you choose an app like Total 3D Landscape & Deck Premium, you can use garden templates that make it easy to envision and create your landscapes.

While testing, we found that DreamPlan's topography tools are the best and easiest to use. Topography tools recreate your lot's natural hills and dips, and they can help you picture what your lawn will look like if you bring in more dirt to build it up. However, you should leave most of the topography planning to the professionals.

You can also use deck and fence designer tools, which work much like home design programs’ room-building features – you can connect a deck to your home and set an exterior door as an access point. The same texture and material custom design tools used to update your home can create a deck that is aesthetically pleasing and complements the house’s exterior.

What software does your project need? 

We focused on programs that covered all aspects of home design, including architecture, landscaping, interior design and more. These programs provide everything needed to create a full house plan from the foundation up.

However, there are more specific design programs available. And the best one for you depends on the type of project you’re planning. If you have more specific needs, you probably don’t have to pay extra for an all-in-one program.

For example, if you’re only interested in landscape architecture, there may be a better program for you in our landscaping software category. The programs in that category include advanced tools for designing your lawn and garden so that the outside of your home is as spectacular as the inside.

If you’re more focused on inside the home, you may want to look at our interior design software category. These programs are great and can help you renovate and remodel your existing home, whether you want to knock down walls or simply rearrange your furniture.

And while we named Home Designer Suite our best pick for Mac users, we have an entire category devoted to home and interior design software options for Mac.

What home design software do the pros use?

When we evaluated the best home design software on the market, we asked professionals what they use in their everyday work. Whether we talked to architects, landscapers or interior designers, they all had the same answer: AutoCAD.

Autocad has been the industry standard for designers since it launched in the early 1980s. At the time, the ability to design on a computer was revolutionary. And as the years and decades went on, the program grew to make use of faster processors, new operating systems, enhanced graphics and more powerful computers. The best in the business, you pay a premium for the privilege, with yearly subscriptions costing over $1000. 

What home design software is used on HGTV's Fixer Upper?

If you’ve watched shows like Fixer Upper on HGTV, you may wonder what they use to remodel homes. Joanna uses SketchUp Pro to make her designs. This is professional-grade software that costs about $700, which is far more expensive than the programs we reviewed. However, it includes the full spectrum of tools professionals use to create their designs. We don’t recommend this product for novices or casual users, but if you think you’re up to it, you can download a free trial to see if it’s worth the price. 

You can also try SketchUp Free, a web application that's good for small projects or designing custom furniture, decorations and other objects. Once your object design is complete, you can upload it to SketchUp 3D Warehouse, then import and use it in most of the programs we reviewed.

What home design software does Property Brothers on HGTV use?

Property Brothers is another popular show on HGTV. It's a reality show about identical twin brothers who find run-down homes and renovate them. The walk-throughs they use on the show are generated by Neezo Studios at about $10,000 an episode.

The software used to create these visualizations is called Neezo Renders, which you cannot buy from Neezo Studios. Plus, it is well out of the price range and skill level of casual users. No software we reviewed even comes close to displaying the high-resolution details Neezo Studios can.

However, there are 3D walk-through features in some of the programs we reviewed, including Virtual Architect Ultimate, DreamPlan, Home Designer Suite and Sweet Home 3D. Even though they don't create the same eye-popping results, they can give you a good 3D approximation of your design.

Best home design software 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 $10.99. 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.

How can I draw house plans?

Like any new skill, learning to draw house plans requires a great deal of practice. The amount of knowledge required to do it properly is intimidating. However, not knowing how or where to start designing shouldn’t stop you from doing it. All the home design software we reviewed have at least a few built-in training features. Some offer simple tips, while others have full-blown tutorials that walk you through the process step by step.

There’s also a plethora of ways to learn the basics and best practices of home design. For example, there are thousands of videos on YouTube about the subject, both from regular users and software manufacturers. If you’re willing to put in the time it takes to find the right information and commit to learning it, there’s little stopping you from mastering any of the programs we reviewed.

How to design your home on a budget

If you design your dream home with no limits in mind, you probably won’t be able to build it – especially if you’re on a budget or just frugal. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make sure your design is as practical as it is beautiful. 

If you’re moving into a new space, you first need to determine what purpose each room will serve. While it may be obvious which rooms are intended to be bedrooms, dens and living rooms from the house's layout, you’ll have a much better idea of what you want when you know what each individual room will be used for, especially if it's outside of its obvious function.

The next step is to take exact measurements of your home. You can use these measurements when you rebuild your space in the home design software. Just remember, they have to be exact – if you approximate, the furniture you buy may not fit in the spaces you expected it to.

Taking your homemade plans to a professional

Once you have your plans the way you want them, it’s time to build. However, all the contractors, professional architects and designers we talked to told us they are extremely wary of homemade plans. Their chief concerns revolve around non-professionals not understanding things like spacial flow and wdesign accuracy. Contractors also told us that homemade plans generally don’t take into account local zoning ordinances and misunderstand things like plumbing and electrical work.

So, before you get too far into the building process, you need to make sure your plans stand up to professional standards. Running them past a local architect is a great idea. They can give you an idea of where you may be going wrong. You can also hire them to use your plan as a basis for a better design than you can make yourself.