Here's what the experts say to look for in a home design
- Web updates. Packages that access
a website for updates ensure that furniture and textile selections
are stylish and current.
- Check system requirements. The most comprehensive
programs need close to 4GB of free hard disk space and 512MB of
RAM, as software gets more complex. Reviewers stress that the faster
your computer, the less time you'll spend waiting for 3D components
to process. Home design software is usually a system hog, so it's going
to work better on a newer, faster computer.
- Look for a variety
of 2D and 3D options. Almost all home design programs include
a 3D-walkthrough feature, and the best offer at least three different
viewing angles, including virtual walkthroughs. Reviewers like split
screens that allow you to make a change in a 2D plan and simultaneously
see the result in 3D.
- Materials lists and
estimating tools. These allow you to see how much your ideas
will cost, as well as what you'll need to buy. The Punch! and Better
Homes and Gardens titles in ConsumerSearch Fast Answers have an estimator
- A guarantee. Many packages let
you get your money back if you're unhappy with the results, and
with top packages going for $100 and more, that's a big plus.
- Be aware of
the software's limits. Because
there are so many variables, such as load-bearing beams, the
finished product often needs tweaking, counsels The Wall Street Journal.
Reviews say you should not expect this level of software to be able
to produce a plan that's deliverable to your contractor. The best homeowner
application is for experimentation and playing with ideas -- not producing
an executable plan. Reviews do say that home design software is a
good tool for communicating with an architect, however.
- Look at various
software options. About.com
guide Coral Nafie says that there isn't any one perfect software
package that can handle every project. She suggests looking at various
options, including free online software.