Home Design Software Review

Home Designer Suite Logo
Chief Architect
Home Designer Suite 2019
Virtual Architect Logo
Virtual Architect Ultimate 8
Home Design with Landscaping and Decks
Price $99 — MSRP $99 — MSRP
$59 — Standard Internet Discount
$29 — further Internet Discounting
Amazon Best Home Design Software Rank Top 3 Not in Top 25
Amazon Reviews Excellent Bad
Security Limited to one computer at a time None
Roofs Automatic Roofs – simple, accurate and update as the floor plan changes or you add additional floors. A variety of Roof Styles are available with simple step-by-step instructions. Roofs frame accurately for every style.

Roof in Home Designer
Not automatic and Not Accurate. Roofs must be manually generated. In many cases the attic walls are missing – see below. If the floor plan changes, the roof must be manually adjusted to match. Build a 2nd Story? Again, the roof must be manually updated. Roofs will frame incorrectly.

Roof in Virtual Architect
Ceilings Automatic Ceilings – generate automatically for each room. Precise controls provide accurate results for cathedral, shed, or other vaulted ceilings.

Cathedral ceiling in Home Designer
Not automatic – must be manually added for each room. Extremely difficult to make shed or vaulted ceilings – especially if the floor plan changes.

Cathedral ceiling in Virtual Architect
Foundations Automatic Foundations – foundations automatically generate with footings; they update as the main floor plan changes. Ceiling height can be easily set to any value. Not Automatic – must use a "wizard"; no footings, ceilings height NOT easy to define. If main floor plan changes, foundation does NOT update.
Floors Automatic Floors – floors are automatic for rooms and will frame. Floors can easily be raised or lowered. Not Automatic – must use a floor tool, it is very difficult to get floors to frame. Can't easily modify the elevation of floor, resulting in limited structure options (e.g., no split levels).
Windows/Doors Wide variety of options and can easily be customized. Objects are parametric automatically regenerating for real world conditions (double doors) and can be edited in 2D or 3D. Labels are accurate.

Doors and windows in Home Designer
Very Limited customization, inaccurate and must be resized and edited through a dialog (No 3D editing). Door styles are photos (not parametric) and are inaccurate when resized – see below. Labels are inaccurate a 2' window resized to 3' shows 2'.

Doors in Virtual Architect
Framing Automatic Framing – is generated for all components: floor, roof and walls – and it is accurate.

Framing in Home Designer
Not fully automatic framing – only generates for walls. If a Roof or ceiling is added framing is not accurately generated – see missing attic wall & garage floor below.

Framing in Virtual Architect
3D Navigation, Rendering & Editing 3D Navigation, Rendering & Editing are a clear advantage with Home Designer. You can show shadows, reflections, ambient occlusion, bloom all of which greatly improve the overall rendering quality. 3D navigation is natural and easy. You can edit in both 3D & 2D simultaneously using a split screen view. See Home Designer sample gallery. 3D Navigation is clumsy and frustrating. Rendering is weak, "3D Realview" (ray trace) is unrealistic, provides bad lighting and jagged edges. Limited to no editing in 3D. When compared to Home Designer, 3D is a major weakness in this product. Viewing both 2D & 3D simultaneously is not possible. Navigation up and down floors in 3D is limited and difficult to move up and down for good 3D views.
Decks Deck railings automatically generate. Can auto generate roofs over deck. Flexible style options for rails, panels, etc.

Deck in Home Designer
Decking is limited in shapes and rail styles. Can't curve sides. Deck framing does not appear.

Deck in Virtual Architect
Terrain Can have a terrain with as many sides as desired. Can Curve sides. Terrain cannot easily be resized for a 3D view and shapes (curved lots) and are not really allowed.
Kitchens & Cabinets Cabinets are smart objects in Home Designer – automatically conform to common real world – e.g., when a cabinet is resized from 24" to 36" the door will become a double (this is called parametric). When you place cabinets in a corner, it automatically becomes a corner cabinet. Cabinets are fully customizable with 24 door/drawer styles and can be edited 2D & 3D. There is wide variety of built-in islands and entire kitchens that can be placed from the Library.

Cabinets in Home Designer
Cabinets are limited to roughly 4 drawer/door styles. Cabinet can only be edited thru the dialog (not in 2D or 3D). It is difficult to configure cabinets for an island. Corner cabinets aren't automatic. Can only place a sink in 2D. Resizing is NOT parametric, so no auto double doors as real cabinets have. Cabinet drawers/doors are images, resulting in bad views – see dishwasher below. "Kitchen Wizard" produces unrealistic kitchens.

Cabinets in Virtual Architect
Stairs Stairs are Smart parametric objects – they automatically connect floor-to-floor. Stairs have an auto stairwell tool that produces an opening with railing. Drawing walls under stairs automatically cut them under the stairs. Customization of stairs allow you to create a variety of styles and options. Stairs are a major weakness in Virtual Architect. Stairs are symbols and not parametric objects. When you place a symbol stair they do NOT automatically connect from floor-to-floor. Staircase railings are not automatic (must be manually added). Stairwells aren't automatically created. A manual hole must be cut into the floor and ceiling; then, railings must be manually placed around the opening. Walls don't automatically cut underneath stairs.
360° Export 360° renders can be exported to the Chief Architect cloud (free) and then viewed or shared with Virtual Reality goggles like Google Cardboard. Not supported.
3D Viewer Models Export 3D Viewer models to the Chief Architect cloud (free) and they can be viewed on the web or mobile with Virtual Reality goggles like Google Cardboard. Version 8 Exports to SketchFab – models currently fail (as of this review) and are not compatible with SketchFab. Models are Not available for mobile.
Sample Home Plans 31
(Download)
11
(in software)
Export File Format DXF, BMP, JPG, PNG, TIFF, EMF, 360° Panorama, 3D Viewer DXF, BMP, JPG, PNG, TIFF, GIF, 3DS, WRL, SketchFab (not working as of this review)
Object Library 6,500
60,000+ bonus & manufacturer branded catalogs – 3D Library
Limited
Import Third-Party Objects SKP, OBJ, 3DS, DAE SKP, DXF, 3DS
Video Tutorials 83 Videos / 9 hours
Average time = 6.5 minutes
11 videos
Average time = 90 seconds
How-To Webinars Weekly None
FAQs 600+ how-to help articles None
Support Free customer support (phone, chat, email) with qualified home design technicians Paid, $10/incident
User Forum HomeTalk None
Windows 64-bit — 10 / 8 / 7 10 / 8 / 7 / Vista
macOS Sierra / High Sierra None