Home renovation and remodeling costs can add up quickly. Depending on the renovations you want to do, costs can run anywhere from $25,000 to $45,000 for things like painting, landscaping, and refurbishing cabinets. Costs can go as high as $75,000 for a total kitchen remodel or fully updating a bathroom. When you add in some low- or medium-cost upgrades and install some new plumbing, your renovation costs could expand even further.
Unless you’re a professional architect or have construction experience, it’s often hard to know how your project is going to turn out or how much it is going to cost. Home design software allows you to create a realistic vision of your home improvement project by allowing you to build the floorplan, set wall coloring, and add furniture and other design features.
We looked at more than 15 home design software options to get to the best six. In selecting the best, we considered more than just cost. We wanted to make sure options were easy to use, had realistic renderings, and could take real spaces, add uploaded pictures, and create true-to-life designs.
The 6 Best Home Design Software of 2020
Best Overall: Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design with Landscaping and Decks 9.0
We chose Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design as our best overall because of the wizard-driven technology that lets you do everything from redesigning your bathroom to building your dream home from the ground up, all with just a click of the mouse. Add in the ability to use your own actual photos and the software’s landscape and deck design, and it has everything a weekend warrior or DIYer could want to help visualize their home renovation project.
Wizard-driven interface provides fast results
Upload digital photos to help plan any room makeover
Provides technical support and tutorial videos
Pricier than some of its competitors
May find there is a learning curve when you first begin
You have to pay for phone support
Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design with Landscaping and Decks 9.0 is a product developed by Nova Development. The company was founded in 1984 and is considered one of the largest publishers in the United States for software products created exclusively for consumers and small businesses. Nova Development provides products for both Windows and Apple products.
Although Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design is a little pricier than some of its competitors, you get a lot of extra features for the cost, including a massive library with thousands of 3D graphics to help you visualize and plan your living space. You can even upload your own digital photos to use as a backdrop for your ongoing project. This version also includes Landscape and Decks, which means you can use it for both indoor and outdoor designs.
One of the best things we like about Virtual Architect Ultimate is that it is wizard-driven. This means it allows you to work on your projects both smoothly and quickly, even if you have no design experience. All you have to do is point and click. The wizards do the rest.
|Virtual Architect Ultimate Home Design with Landscaping and Decks 9.0||$99.99|
Best for Mac: TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe Mac 2019
While some of the software on this list is cloud-based, meaning you do not install it directly on your computer but instead access it remotely from virtually any device, other options are software programs you purchase outright, often in either Mac or PC versions. We chose TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe Mac 2019 as best for Mac because it is the most intuitive, easy-to-use, and feature-rich of all the software we reviewed that has versions designed specifically for the Mac operating system.
It is a good option for beginners, too, because it has more user-friendly, automated tools, such as AutoFraming™ with Framing Editor™ to customize stud spacing. We also love the way it tracks cost and square footage for each project.
Allows you to scan and trace your own floor plans
Provides automatic room cost adjustments
Build Energy Tips provide eco-friendly advice as you design
Limited kitchen design tools
No kitchen wizard
TurboFloorPlan was created by the TurboCad Design group, which is part of IMSI/Design. The company is considered the global leader in retail CAD (Computer Aided Design) and was founded in 1988. When it comes to home design software for professionals, this is the company to which many architects and designers turn.
Although TurboCad has a variety of products for professionals, they also provide more affordable products, such as TurboFloorPlan for Mac lovers and homeowners who simply want to create plans for remodeling or redecorating with no experience required. On the Mac, the software is unlike normal CAD products; it's more intuitive and user-friendly.
TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe Mac 2019 allows you to drag and drop thousands of symbols as you create and provides precise auto-dimensions for 2D/3D design. The program’s estimator provides a way for you to keep a running tally of prices and square footage in real-time as you draw. It can provide the cost for separate rooms, landscaping, or the entire house. It also provides eco-friendly advice as you design.
|TurboFloorPlan Home & Landscape Deluxe Mac 2019||$99.99|
Best Option for Easy Use: RoomSketcher
We selected RoomSketcher as our best option for easy use because it takes almost no effort to get started. Once you are on the website, choose what you want to do from the menu and you are ready to begin. Instructions are simple to understand, and you can quickly create images of your ideas.
Interactive life-like 3D walkthroughs
Real floor plans
Plans are drawn to scale
Images do not look like real-life photos, but quality is not bad
Free to use, but you have to pay for additional features, such as 3D floor plans
Yearly subscription for RoomSketcher VIP and Pro
RoomSketcher was founded in 2007. The company began as a spinoff from a company that created 3D visualizations for the sub-sea oil industry. RoomSketcher is privately held and is backed by venture firm Viking Ventures and the holding company Torrey Pines AS.
Since RoomSketcher’s home design projects live in the cloud, you can sync the program across different devices and use it anytime, anywhere, even offline. Users can create their own floor plans, design rooms, and see their creations in 3D, 2D, and 360 views. It has an extensive library of furniture options and an impressive number of plant images you can use. The program even allows you to create a second floor by "cloning" your first floor and using the same outline when you start your second level. Everything saves for future use in folders, so you can come back to your projects whenever you want.
RoomSketcher allows you to start designing right away, but you’ll have to pay if you want additional features such as 3D floor plans, 360 viewing, or real floor plans. Getting set up is easy, and within minutes you can start designing and creating.
|RoomSketcher VIP||$49 per year|
|RoomSketcher Pro||$99 per year|
Best Mobile Option: Homestyler
There are quite a few home design apps you can use on your phone, but they often have a "cartoonish" appearance to them when you look at the finished product. We chose Homestyler as our best mobile option because the designs actually look realistic, plus they allow you to create home plans and blueprints quickly and easily.
Free to use
Tutorial videos to help you learn
Post your images on Instagram for feedback
Program does not run at maximum efficiency on desktop unless you use Chrome
Limits on the amount of uploads you can do for 3D/2D models
If you want to view your projects with 4K resolution, you have to pay for it separately
Homestyler is owned by the Alibaba Group and Easyhome New Retail Group. The original prototype for Homestyler was part of a project called Dragonfly and was developed by Autodesk in 2009.
The software was initially created for the real estate and design industry. Available on both mobile devices and desktops, we like that Homestyler’s plans look realistic when you create them on the app, and you can take a photo of an actual physical space and then add 3D models of real furniture to design your room. You can also build floor plans, second floors, and even swimming pools.
Homestyler is extremely easy to use; once you have downloaded your app and registered, you are ready to get started. Create a blueprint of your dream home or upload photos of the living space you want to design, then simply choose and click on the furniture items you want to use to decorate your room.
Homestyler is currently free to use, with other plan options (Pro and Master) coming soon. When these plans become available, users can increase their upload limits for 3D and 2D models, remove the watermark from their images, and have access to the render editor without having to pay for it each time as you do with the free version.
|Homestyler Pro||Coming soon|
|Homestyler Master||Coming soon|
Best Free Option: SketchUp
There are a lot of free home design software programs out there, but you usually get what you pay for; the quality isn’t always good or there’s no real storage. Even with its free version, SketchUp provides nice, professional-looking final images. It also has a good photo library and, with 10GB of cloud storage, you can work on projects without running out of space.
Easy to use and navigate
10GB cloud storage
Slight learning curve if you’ve never used home design software
Limited photo library
Not usable offline
SketchUp was created by Last Software founder Brad Schell back in 1999. It is now owned by the Trimble Company.
If you’re just beginning to explore the world of home design, SketchUp is a great way to try it for free. Renderings look professional and, although the quality won’t appear as good as it does with the Pro version, it’s not half bad. Although SketchUp Free only allows limited use of its photo library, you can still do a lot with the program and it’s easy to create your designs.
One of the biggest things we appreciated about SketchUp, however, was that users have 10GB of cloud storage for their projects. There is also an active support community to assist you if you have questions. Post your question on their forum and you’ll receive several answers within a few hours. Accessing SketchUp is as easy as signing up for an account. There is nothing to download and once you have signed up for an account, you are ready to begin.
|SketchUp Shop||$199 per year|
|SketchUp Pro||$299 per year|
Best for Landscaping Design: Lands Design
If you want to design a landscape for your home, Lands Design is as real as it gets. We like that you can try for free what the professional landscapers use, and plans are available in both 2D and 3D in your trial subscription.
Extensive plant database
Easy to download and get started
Choose between four plant representations: elevations, conceptual, detailed, and realistic
Free version only applicable for first 90 days
Training available, but uses actual CAD tools, so expect learning curve
Requires Rhino software (downloadable on site)
Lands Design was created by Asuni CAD in 1993. It is a landscaping software designed for professionals in the landscaping industry. Although the professional version has a hefty subscription price, individuals can try it for free for 90 days.
Lands Design allows you to turn your 2D layout into a 3D design for visualization, or you can create a 2D version from a 3D version, and add plant photos, dimensions, and tags. What really makes Lands Design our top choice as best for landscaping design, however, is that the software has an extensive plant database in both 2D and 3D. It has over 1,800 species you can use to create designs based on soil type, wind resistance, and fruitification.
The program allows you to choose one of four plan representations; select from elevations, conceptual, detailed, and realistic. You can also add elements such as irrigation and hardscapes. Since the software supports other platforms, you can import or export from other libraries on the internet when they are compatible and easily integrate them into your design plans.
|Lands Design||Free for 90 days|
|Lands Design (for individual and business)||$795|
What Is Home Design Software?
Home design software is a type of program that allows you to create your own home designs without first having to study or take classes to become a home interior designer or an architect. Programs use an interface that allows you to "build" a house or room on your electronic device. You can then use the plans you have created to either help with your home renovation projects or export your ideas to an architect or builder who can make your dream into a reality.
DIYers can use home design software even if they have no design experience. Many software programs are extremely user friendly and do not require you to have actual knowledge of architecture or design. There are often tutorials to help you out if needed, but a lot of the ones we reviewed allowed you to jump straight in and get started. You simply “drag and drop” or “point and click” to create your designs.
How Much Does Home Design Software Cost?
Prices for home design software vary greatly. Costs range from free all the way up to $795 or more, depending on the features you want and the number of photo uploads you can make. Expect to pay more if you want 3D or other enhancements.
During our review process, we discovered that if you want to pay for some extra bells and whistles, you can get a nice quality program starting around $49.99. If you want a little more, $99.99 will provide you with lots of extras such as price estimators, unlimited uploads, and large photo libraries.
When Is Home Design Software Worth the Cost?
If you want to know how your home renovation project or remodel is going to look before you complete it, then you may find purchasing a home design software program is well worth the cost. Home design programs not only show you what your finished project will look like, but some will also give you an idea of the cost, which can help keep you from going over budget.
Since there are free home design software programs you can use, we believe it is always worth it to do a little designing before you begin. This can give you an idea of how your finished project will turn out and help you to avoid some of the unknowns you may otherwise encounter.
How We Chose the Best Home Design Software
When choosing the best home design software for each category, we looked at dozens of software choices to get to our best. While price was a major consideration, functionality and realistic-looking plans were critical. Other criteria that we used included a variety of factors such ease of use, access to tutorials, and the number of photos stored in each software’s library.