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Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design with Landscaping and Decks 9.0 review

It’s a little more expensive than some rivals, but Virtual Architect's excellent wizards and enormous object library means it’s also a lot more useful. The Landscape and Decks version is great for outdoor projects too.

Virtual Architect Ultimate Review
(Image: © Virtual Architect)

Our Verdict

Don’t let the cluttered interface fool you: Virtual Architect Ultimate is pretty easy to learn with lots of helpful wizards to help you create interior and exterior designs. It’s packed with tools and makes any project easy.

For

  • Included wizards take care of the basics

Against

  • Phone support is an expensive extra

Here's all you need to know about Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design . We've done hours of research and tested a range of programs to create our in-depth reviews, which we've reviewed and rated in our comprehensive guide to the best home design software.

Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design: What you need to know

Virtual Architect Professional Home Design With Landscaping And Decks was our favourite home design app in version 8, and version 9 introduces some important new features. The developers have added another 150 brand-name items and materials to the object catalogue, the new cut/copy/paste feature makes it easy to share items between projects, there are improved customisation options for windows and doors and there's an improved roof tool that makes it even simpler to give your home a hat. 

Available on PC or Mac, the software is $79.99.

Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design: Features

The app itself retains everything we liked about version 8, most notably its wizards. These are little helpers that take you step by step through the process of creating a project such as a kitchen, a deck, a shed or a landscaping project, and they make a huge difference to the app's learning curve. Because it can do so much, Virtual Architect Professional Home Design would look a little intimidating if it weren't for the friendly wizards offering you an electronic help and hand.

The wizards aren't just limited to relatively simple projects such as kitting out a bedroom You can use them to help you design an entire house. The House Builder Wizard walks you step by step through the entire home design process, starting with your choice of foundation type and then moving on to the general house shape and where you want the garage. From there it moves onto the dimensions of your home and then asks you to select the materials you want to make it with. Once you've decided on what you'd like, Virtual Architect Professional Home Design then creates a basic plan of the house that you can then customise to get it just-so. It's a fantastic way to learn the app and it's particularly useful if home design software is completely new to you.

Virtual Architect Professional Home Design also comes with sample designs for various kinds of homes ranging from a beach home to a farmhouse, a condo to a lakeside home and even a pool house. As with the plan created by the House Builder Wizard, these plans are fully editable so you can take the bits you like and tweak the bits you don't.

Some home design software offer plans that are little more than basic shells, but that's not the case with Virtual Architect Professional Home Design. Its plans don't just give you the shape of the building; they include items such as the flooring and furniture, the building materials and even the paint on the walls. However, if it's variety you're looking for you might be disappointed: while the plans here are all very good, they're a fraction of the 1,000 you get with an app such as Total 3D Landscape & Deck Premium.

In addition to its wizards and its sample plans, the app also has a little tutor that appears in a pop-up window whenever you select a new tool. This tutor, which you can turn off once you've got the hang of things, tells you what the tool is and what it does. That's a welcome alternative to apps where you have to squint at icons to try and work out what they mean and whether you want to use them.

You don't have to use the wizards or the plans, of course. Virtual Architect Professional Home Design's tools are sensibly organised and straightforward to use, with intelligent walls that automatically snap to one another and windows that you can add with a click. Everything's done in 3D, and any changes are made to the underlying 2D floorplan.

If this isn't your first rodeo you'll welcome the ability to import existing blueprints and floor plans, which includes the ability to import images and then trace over them with walls, windows and doors. You can also trace features from different plans and join them together, which is useful if you want to mix and match from multiple previous plans or projects. There's also the functionality to import digital photos than can be added to the decor – including photos of your family to make your dream home look that little bit more realistic.

As this is the Landscape and Decks version of the app, it comes with some useful features for making the great outdoors even greater. There's an excellent Deck Builder wizard that enables you to quickly set out plans for decking or patios, and it's easy to add retaining walls and even features such as gazebos. The landscaping tools include effective terrain modeling, a massive plant encyclopedia with over 7,500 entries and a really nifty garden visualizer that enables you to see how your planned garden will look as the plants grow and the seasons change. The app can even tell you the best times to plant, water or prune your outdoor plants to keep the outside looking perfect all year round.

The app also includes plenty of hardscape features including a good selection of fences and gates, easy cartoons of sidewalks, pathways and driveways, and the accessory library includes common items such as garden furniture, water features and outdoor lighting.

Once you're finished, the app can create 360-degree panoramas and what it calls 'photorealistic' rendering of your design. The app supports Home VR for iOS and Android if you fancy seeing your plans in VR, and it can export in the industry standard DXF format for sharing with contractors and other interested parties.

Should you buy Virtual Architect Professional Home Design with Landscaping and Decks 9.0?

Virtual Architect Professional Home Design with Landscaping and Decks 9.0 is a worthwhile upgrade from its predecessor, and if you're new to home design apps or looking to upgrade from a simpler app it's well worth considering.

If you’re only interested in landscape design, there may be a better program for you in our best landscaping design software buying guide, while if you’re more focused on inside the home, you may want to look at our best interior design software buying guide.