Best Home Design Software of 2019

J.D. Chadwick ·
Multimedia & Home Improvement Editor
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

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. When 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.

Best Overall
Virtual Architect Ultimate
This program earned the top spot in our review of the best home design programs. It’s a comprehensive program that has everything you need to design a home and it is one of the easiest programs to learn.
View on Nova Development
$99@Nova Development
Best Overall
Virtual Architect Ultimate
Best Value
TurboFloor Plan Home & Landscape Deluxe
If you don’t need all the advanced features found in more expensive options, this program may fit your needs. It’s about half the price but still offers a wide array of design tools.
View on Turbocad
Best for Mac
Home Designer Suite
Only three of the products we reviewed have Mac versions. This is by far the best of them, yet it is still compatible with Windows.
View on Chief Architect
Product
Price
OVERALL RATING
Ease of Use
Home & Floor Plan Design
Interior & Room Design
Landscape & Garden Design
Help & Support
Ease of Use
Roofs & Pitch Wizard
Electrical & Plumbing Planning
Sample Home Plans
Import Scanned Floor Plans
Framing Editor
Drag and Drop
Trace Floor Plan
Cost Estimator
Metric Measurements
Export File Format
Object Library
Import Third-Party Objects
Stair Generator
Curved Walls
Cabinet Designer
Textures
Additions & Remodeling Tools
Plant Library
Plant Encyclopedia
Landscape Templates
Topography Designer
Fence Designer
Water Features
Deck Designer
Video Tutorials
FAQs
Telephone Support
Windows
macOS
$99 Novadevelopment
5 5 5 5 4
A+
A+
A
+
DXF, BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF
7500+
SketchUp
7500+
$
$99 Turbocad
4.5 5 4.5 4.5 4.5
A
A
A
45
DXF, DWG, VRML
4700+
SketchUp
3800+
X
$99.99 Amazon
4.5 5 4.5 4.5 5
B+
B+
A
45
DXF, DWG, BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF
4700+
SketchUp
4000+
X
$49.99 Turbocad
4.5 5 4 4 3.5
A
A
A
45
DXF, DWG, VRML
2100+
SketchUp
1200+
X
$99.99 Amazon
4 5 5 4.5 5
B
B
A
31
DXF, BMP, JPG, PNG
6500+
SketchUp, Trimble 3D Warehouse
1200+
X
$38.49 Amazon
4 5 4 4 5
B+
B+
A
45
BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF
4700+
SketchUp
3200+
X
$29.99 Nchsoftware
4.5 4 3 2.5 4
A
A-
C
1
DDP
65+
SketchUp
6+
$
$29.99 Individualsoftware
3 4 2.5 4 5
C+
A+
B
1015
BMP, JPEG, TIFF
800+
Not Supported
60+
X
$14.99 Amazon
3.5 3 4.5 1 3.5
B-
N/A
C
Online Gallery
SVG, PDF
1200+
SketchUp, Trimble 3D Warehouse
22+
N/A
$19.99 Amazon
3 4 2.5 1.5 5
C+
A+
B
1015
BMP, JPEG, TIFF
700+
N/A
60+
X
Best Overall
Of all the home design programs we reviewed, Virtual Architect Ultimate is the best you can buy. It scored an A+ on our ease-of-use tests; no other application received marks that high.
Anyone can learn to use it but expect to spend at least a few hours exploring all of its tools and features. This program contains nine highly detailed, preprogrammed floor plans to help get you started with your design. You can customize, alter and change them to fit your needs. If you’re a more advanced user, you can start from scratch. Virtual Architect strikes the perfect balance between simplicity for novice users and power for detail-oriented experts. If a preprogrammed design isn’t right for you, the program also provides a number of wizards. These walk you through all the necessary steps to design kitchens, decks, bathrooms and more. One of the best things about this program is that it automatically calculates what materials you’ll need to make your dream home a reality. It also has a cost estimator to give you an idea of how much money you’ll have to spend 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 every aspect of a home. No other program even comes close.
Pros
  • It is easy to learn.
  • Wizards and sample plans help you make the perfect design.
  • It has every tool and feature we look for in this kind of software.
Cons
  • It isn’t compatible with objects found in Trimble 3D Warehouse.
  • You have to pay for phone support.
  • It only has nine sample home plans while other programs offer more.
$99Nova Development
Read the full review
Best for Mac
Using a Mac often means that you don’t have access to useful programs. This is not the case with Home Designer Suite.
It’s a comprehensive program that covers all aspects of home design, both inside and out. If you’re using a Mac, this is the program you want. It’s also one of the few programs that’s compatible with the third-party program Tremble 3D Warehouse. This means that if you really like a plan made with one of these programs, you won’t have to rebuild it from scratch. Additionally, once you’re done designing, you can export your plans into multiple formats that can be used by other programs and by professional builders and architects making the handoff to contractors a cinch when construction season rolls around. Another great thing about this application is its ability to customize every aspect of your digital design. It doesn’t just stop at household features such as walls, doors and stairs. It also lets you furnish your plan with a library of more than 6,500 objects ranging from couches, beds and entertainment centers to 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 has less of a third of the objects offered by our top choice.
Pros
  • It’s one of the rare home design programs available for Mac.
  • You can scan and import physical plans into the program.
  • You can import designs made in SketchUp and Trimble 3D Warehouse.
Cons
  • Getting used to the workflow takes some time.
  • You can’t add ponds and other water features.
  • Its plant library is considerably smaller than several other programs we reviewed.
$99Chief Architect
Read the full review
Best Value
You don’t always have to buy the best of the best to get what you want out of a program. And spending money on a program with tools you’ll never use doesn’t do you any good.
If this describes you, or you just don’t want to shell out the extra cash, TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe is a viable option. It doesn’t have everything but it has enough to get most jobs done at about half the price. This program comes loaded with 45 sample plans that you can alter, adjust and make your own. You can also import scanned floor plans into the program. This is great for beginners who lack a starting point or for those who simply want to build on other great ideas. This is an easy program to learn and use. It scored an A in our ease-of-use tests. You don’t have to blindly click around the program to figure out each tool. You can consult the program’s video tutorials to learn how to use each tool to its fullest potential. Unlike Virtual Architect Ultimate, it doesn’t have wizards to walk you through the room creation process step by step, but you should still get the hang of it quickly.
Pros
  • It costs about half the price of our top pick.
  • It doesn’t skimp on the essential features.
  • Video tutorials teach you how to use the tools.
Cons
  • There are no wizards to walk you through the design process.
  • There are no fence or water feature designers.
  • The official website lacks a FAQ section.
$49Turbocad
Read the full review
Best for Small Projects
If you have an idea for a home design but don’t want to spend a lot of money or use a complicated program, DreamPlan may be the right program for you.
It only costs about $20 and it has most of the essential features for small projects. You get a solid roof wizard, the ability to import scanned floor plans and its drag and drop interface is among the easiest to learn and use. However, we don’t advise you use it to completely remodel you home. It’s simply not as powerful or comprehensive as other programs we reviewed. For example, its electrical and plumbing planning tools are the weakest we saw, and it doesn’t include a cost estimator. Additionally, it only has one sample home plan to work with and a small object library.
Pros
  • Has all the basics and is easy to learn.
Cons
  • Small object library and substandard electrical and plumbing tools.
$29.99NCH Software
Read the full review
Most Sample Plans
Virtually all the home design programs we reviewed have sample plans that you can use as a jumping off point for your own design. Generally, you get less than 50 plans with any particular program.
Total 3D Landscape & Deck Premium have over a thousand. This is great if you’re not sure what you want or just want a lot of options to choose from. However, when we tested this software we found it the hardest to learn and use of all the programs we compared. It’s also missing some key features we look for in this category. For example, the software lacks a framing editor and the ability to trace existing floor plans. Additionally, while its object library has a respectable 800 items to choose from, it’s a far cry from our top pick’s library of over 7,500 options.
Pros
  • It has more than a thousand sample plans to choose from.
Cons
  • This is one of the hardest to learn and use.
$29Individual Software
Read the full review

Why Trust Us

We spent more than 180 hours learning, using and evaluating home design programs. During the testing process, we created dozens of homes as well as thousands of rooms and other features. As we worked, we took notes about what we liked and disliked about each product. Our experience and testing data provide an accurate picture of what you can expect from each application.

We also reached out to Trevor Broughton, lead designer at Mountain West Architecture, to learn more about home design software. He told us you should pick a program that gives you a clear idea of how much real-world space architectural elements take up. “From a bathroom to a stairwell, people struggle to understand the square footage required to make these elements function properly in any given plan,” said Broughton.

He also expressed some reservations about people taking homemade plans to professional architects. “My biggest concern with anything brought to me is that it is scalable and accurate.” Further, he is concerned about the feasibility of bringing homemade plans to fruition. Broughton continued, “With regards to scale and spatial flow, most people do not speak that language.”

Several of the programs we reviewed also include yard landscaping features. We reached out to Greg Tarsa of Io Design Collaborative, and he told us that most amateur designers lack the nuanced knowledge of their local environment to effectively plan a workable landscape.

Additionally, he didn’t have any particular recommendations as to which software is best for specific users. “If you’re looking for design itself, you can get any of the software and get good results,” said Tarsa. 

To get a better understanding of home design, we reached out to Gregg Hodson, owner of Gregg Hodson Design in Salt Lake City. Hodson has 27 years of experience in commercial, health care, retail and residential interior design.

“I don’t do anything without a space plan,” Hodson said when asked about the most critical aspects of interior design. “I want everything to the inch. That’s what makes the difference in a well-designed space. Every inch counts – the arm height of the sofa, the table, the height of the side table. You’ve got to make all those work so in the end it all comes together flawlessly.”

He expressed some frustration about dealing with homemade interior designs, mostly caused by the lack of knowledge of the people who created them. “They don’t have the knowledge to know what they need to know. It’s challenging when people think they know, but they’re not at that level,” Hodson said. But he pointed out that home design software is a good jumping-off point for novice designers. “I think it could be very useful to a layperson because that’s where they need to start.”

If you’re designing a home to fit your unique needs, you may want one-of-a-kind furniture. We spoke with Vincent Ferrari of Suffern, New York. He operates Handmade by Vincent Ferrari, a custom woodworking and maker service. He makes things like free-floating benches and office tables, and he can deliver most requests for custom furniture.

We asked him what he needs from a client and what they should keep in mind when they place an order. “When you want something commissioned, the most important thing to do is set aside the area and measure it so that the person making it for you can figure out what scale they're working with,” Ferrari said.  “A visit from the designer is ideal, but annotated pictures are very helpful too. I like to see the area and take my own pictures. It helps me visualize.”

“In my mind the most important thing about custom furniture is that it fits the aesthetic of the client, not my own design tendencies,” Ferrari continued. He went on to emphasize that you should be specific about what you want, “Be clear about your expectations from your designer. It's generally bad form to get the piece and complain about it if you don't participate in the process,” he said.

How We Tested

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 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.

Further, we compared the programs' features. We gave them letter grades based on whether they have features such as roofing and electrical wizards, plumbing planning tools, and object libraries, taking into account how well these features work. 

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?

As we tested floor plan 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 awarded each program an ease of use score based on our experience learning to navigate it. For example, 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.

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.

In some of the programs, we couldn't get this tool to work on our test machines. While we gave some credit to the software we had problems with, those that worked received a higher score for this feature.

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 the 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 Design Software Do Professionals 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. Any piece of software that stands the test of time like AutoCAD deserves its nearly cemented place at the top of its industry.

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 programs we reviewed.

What 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 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. 


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.

What Is a Layout Plan?

The term “layout plan” can refer to two very different things: either a site layout plan or a floor plan. Which one you need to make depends on whether you’re designing a structure or building it.

Floor plans are scaled drawings that shows where rooms, walls, doors and windows will go. They're essentially less detailed versions blueprints. A floor plan is usually the first thing you make when designing a home and one of the primary features in any home design software. It’s the foundation upon which the rest of the project is built.

A site layout plan, on the other hand, is usually drawn up by contractors and is primarily used for construction management. It includes a map of the construction site and lays out where on-site facilities, such as offices, parking, storage and more, will be located. It usually also includes a list of the materials, tools and other things necessary to construct the building.


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 the 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.

What Are the Seven Elements of Interior Design?

Interior design tools are some of the most important features in home design software. If you understand the basics of crafting a plan before you start, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and frustration. You can break interior design into seven elements: space, lines, form, light, color, texture and pattern. There’s a lot to learn about these concepts, and to create the best design, you need to dive deep into each one and figure out how it applies to your specific plans. 

Luckily, there are loads of free learning resources online. If you’re willing to put in the time necessary to understand what makes a plan work, your plans and future home will be the best they can possibly be. And since you’re going live in what you design, you want to get it right.

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.

Most importantly, you need to make a written budget. If you don’t write it down, there’s no way you can stick to it.

Consider what you have on hand and prioritize what to buy first. You probably don’t need a formal kitchen and dining room full of china right off the bat – essentials like beds, dressers, shower curtains and a functional kitchen should come first. You can acquire decor and inessentials over time.

If your budget is exceptionally tight, consider buying what you can from places like IKEA to save a few bucks. There, you can buy things like bookshelves, end tables and other smaller items you will replace over time. However, vital furnishings, such as beds, are worth paying more for since they contribute to your overall quality of life.

Where to Find Home Design Inspiration 

Whether your home needs a makeover or you just want to exercise your creative muscles and don’t know where to start, there are endless sources of inspiration online.

There are tons of websites and publications that regularly post content to inspire designers. Also, mobile apps like Pinterest have thousands of boards dedicated to interior, architectural and landscape design.

In addition, it’s worth looking at professional designers' portfolios. Websites like Houzz help you find interior designers in your area and let you browse the work of designers across the country.

How to Become a Home Designer

If designing homes interests you as a career, there are several pathways open to you. The software we reviewed focuses on three elements of home design: architecture, landscaping and interior design. However, while these programs boil down these elements into a single program that’s accessible to amateurs, it's vanishingly rare to find a professional proficient in all three. So, unless you have a lot of time for school, you should pick the one area that interests you most.

All 50 states require architects and landscape architects to be licensed, and almost all states require licenses for interior designers. In most cases, you need at least bachelor’s degree and two years work experience before you qualify to take your state’s licensing exam. So, college is a must for this type of profession.

The educational paths to learn each of the three elements are almost identical, and there’s significant overlap in the courses necessary to earn each degree. So, no matter which path you choose, you'll likely have a decent grasp on all three elements.

If becoming a pro doesn’t interest you and you still want to improve your design skills, online courses like those provided by the Interior Design Institute are a great option. They let you focus on learning your craft without the distractions of unrelated college courses. There are also abundant free resources online, particularly on YouTube, where you can learn everything you need to know about home design in your own time – you just won’t get the degree.


How Much Do Home Designers Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean wage of interior designers in 2018 was $51,500 a year in the United States. Architects made significantly more, at $78,470 a year, while the mean salary of landscape architects was $65,760 per year.

The top earners in the architectural field earn as much as $134,610 annually, the top interior designers can have salaries as high as $85,430 and high-end landscape designers make up to $108,470 a year.

Location also affects salaries; for example, interior designers in Washington, D.C., make an average of $84,820 per year, whereas the mean annual income for this occupation in Oklahoma is just $42,730.


Online Home Designers

If you don’t need a full-blown set of design tools or you just want to casually design houses as a creative outlet, you can check out the free version of Planner 5D. It’s an online home and interior designer made specifically for amateurs. Even if you have only basic computer skills, you should get the hang of Planner 5D quickly.

The free version includes only the most basic tools that let you place rooms, walls, doors, windows and plumbing. You also get access to a small portion of the object library. To unlock more of Planner 5D's 4,000 objects, you must sign up for one of its paid plans – full catalog access costs as little as $10 a month. This designer is affordable, and you don’t have to install a bulky application on your computer.

Because of its amateur audience, the program's design tools don’t give you the granular control of those found in the programs we reviewed. However, it’s a great place to learn the basics and hone your skills.

Planner 5D is also available as a free application for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android.

Another online home design option is SmartDraw. It’s a more comprehensive solution than the programs we reviewed in this category, in that it goes far beyond architectural design. It is a full-featured diagramming program that allows you to make anything from flowcharts, engineering diagrams, infographics and mind maps to software designs, astronomy charts, crime scene diagrams and much more. It’s hard to overstate the usefulness of SmartDraw when it comes to creating a wide variety of documents.

The home design tools found in SmartDraw include making floor plans, exterior and landscaping design. You can build your plans from the ground up or use their preprogrammed home and room templates as a jumping off point. And it’s quite easy to use, even if you’ve never designed anything before. When we used SmartDraw, we got the hang of it in just a few minutes.

However, SmartDraw isn’t a full home designing solution. While it has the basics we look for in this category, it lacks tools such as 2D and 3D previews, a cost estimator and material lists. Plus, it only has the most basic of interior design tools and objects.

You can use the service for free for a short trial period to see if it’s right for you. The full SmartDraw suite is available for as little as $10 a month.

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 design 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.


Home Design Games

Sometimes designing a home is just a fun way to exercise your creative muscles, and there are games specifically for that. Mobile apps like Design Home and Home Design Makeover allow you to decorate predesigned homes with furniture, plants, lights, rugs and other items. You can choose to decorate spaces ranging from high-rise apartments and Beverly Hills mansions to tropical retreats and beachfront properties.

As you design, you gain points you can use to unlock items in the programs' object libraries. You can also purchase items through microtransactions if there’s a sofa or lamp you want for your design. But you need to be careful when purchasing items from their libraries, since purchases can add up very quickly.

If you want a game that’s more substantial than a mobile app, there are desktop and console games that have great home design elements. The Sims series has a robust “build mode” you can use to design entire homes from the ground up. If you want to design homes for fun, there’s no better game than The Sims.