Easy to use and inexpensive Floor Planning software for Realtors, Homeowners, and Architects/builders

Services for Real Estate Pros with John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. 13013

(above, my first try! and at the time: I HATED computers)

A few years ago, before I used any computers to design houses, a husband and wife came to me and unfurled two drawings.  One was a floor plan of a house that they wanted to build.  The second was a nice watercolor of the exterior facade.

I stared at both drawings and asked: "What would you like me to do for you as you already have a floor plan and an exterior design?"

The husband responded that he had created the floor plan with a computer program and that the wife had created the watercolor facade.  He was an auto dealer, she was an artist.  

My jaw dropped to the floor.  I couldn't speak... 

Again, I asked, why did they need me at this point?
The husband replied sheepishly that although they liked the floor plan it didn't quite fit the setbacks of their lot.  I could use the watercolor as a reference point.  (the drawing at right is one of mine, hand sketched and computer colored)

I looked closely at the plans and noticed they were single sheets of copy paper taped together.  The first and second floors were exactly to scale and had doors, windows, cabinets, plumbing fixtures, columns, etc. indicated.  The sheets had been plotted on a home printer.

Excited, I immediately bought the software program and tried working with it.  I thought to myself: "If this person, a complete non-architect, could draw up a perfectly scaled floorplan, so could I!"

But I hated it.  After about 45 minutes I couldn't get the hang of 'drawing' with a mouse with my right hand (I am left handed) and staring at a blank screen while clicking on small button commands to operate the software.  I put everything back in the box.

But I went on with this commission and redrew those plans by hand on a scaled site to make fit and the elevation I drew by hand as well.

A few months later I received a commission to design a 14,000 SF home.  The owner was a rocket scientist.  Literally.  His office was only a few minutes from mine.  We communicated completely via email after our initial face to face meeting.

He sent me, a few days later, a single line drawing of his ideal house.  I stared at it and thought again: "This person has never drawn a set of house plans and here he is using a simple free CAD program that just draws lines."

I proceeded to recreate the plan to scale by hand and after several days presented it and the client was pleased.  A few more days passed and he contacted me to ask to add two feet through the width of the house to make the central corridor wider... 
I was about to commit hari kari...  It involved erasing half the plan to do this.  Several brainless hours of electric eraser work.

Frustrated, I took out the house design software, created the floor plan with the wider hallway and received an approval to move forward.  It is the exact plan shown at the top of this blog.

I have never looked back.  In fact, I use the same method to design houses to this day: I create the floorplans on CAD and draw the elevations and interiors by hand.  The whole set is then given to an AUTOCAD draftsperson for final drawings.  The floor planning on CAD saves a huge amount of time in the creation and constant revision of the floor plans.  See below a photo of the house I first drew up in CAD.  It was featured in Good Morning America.  Here is the video link. (NEW higher resolution).  All photos here.

What was this software?  At the time you could go to Best Buy and purchase the software for about $65.  It has been improved for the layperson in the last few years and now available as Home Designer Essentials.  I have this for 2017 and there is a free 2018 upgrade.

Over the last 20 years, I have tried various other similar programs but have stuck to this one.  I highly recommend it.  I have the professional version that does many other things but for simple floor planning by a consumer, this is easy to learn and use.  You can find used copies on Ebay or buy a new one here for $99 that does so much more than the floor plans you will have hours and hours of fun... more fun than I care to learn though!!

Get it if you wish to:

  • Replicate an existing house for remodeling, furniture placement, etc.
  • To add a deck, driveway or pool and see how much space you have on your property.
  • Create any number of new house plans, real or fantastical.
  • Realtors can measure existing houses and recreate the exact plan to scale for marketing.

This consumer software now is so sophisticated that you can create 3D exterior and interior renderings, show furniture and accessories in 3D, colors, etc.  There are step by step instructions and video tutorials.

For floor planning with a few clicks you can create to scale your own home, a new home, garage, gazebo, anything.  Adding windows and doors and resizing is a breeze.  Plop in a cabinet and then sink.  Show appliances in a kitchen.  Draw up a basement layout, etc.  Then click to see in 3D.  Amazing. Easy to use.  There is even a trial download.




Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Joyce Marsh 02/16/2019 12:24 AM
Real Estate Technology & Tools
use simple cad software to create home plans
easy to use cad software for realtors

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Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR
Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate

Good evening John Henry,

You continue to amaze me..wow!! The house is gorgeous! I watched the video but your right it is old and doesn't do the house justice. You just showed another Industry that turned to technology. I remember my brother (who is an architect in Pittsburgh) sharing with me how his industry had changed when I was telling him about real estate. Thanks for the post..most interesting! 

Sep 28, 2018 03:39 PM #1
Anna Banana Kruchten Broker, CRB, CRS
HomeSmart International - Phoenix, AZ

John Henry what an interesting story of your back then to now. I have never even thought of drawing up a floor plan but what a fantastic idea for homes that we need one. This is such a great tool - thank you for sharing!

Sep 28, 2018 04:57 PM #2
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi John- I do love playing around with the software but haven't mastered the 3D programs. I do use an easy app to "paint" a wall to show clients how a color change could make a difference. I've used some apps to place furniture in a room but nothing like what you do!!!  BTW saw the video and love Windemere. Our good friends lived there for years. 

Sep 28, 2018 05:18 PM #3
Barbara Todaro
RE/MAX Executive Realty - Franklin, MA
Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team

Hi John Henry I'm just going to follow you around! I remember taking a drafting course during my building construction days at Dean College.... I already had a degree in biology but wanted to master construction and get my builders license... so I enrolled in that major and just took the major courses...didn't need a degree in it...just the knowledge... the only course I didn't take was CAD...loved the drafting course and designed a full set of plans for a straight ranch from the foundation up.....I'll buy that software and play around with it.... thanks for the post....

Sep 28, 2018 06:08 PM #4
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

Interesting post John Henry! This sounds great! That said a little knowledge can be dangerous. I wonder if this software could be a problem for your average person.

Sep 28, 2018 11:44 PM #5
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

Thank you for sharing! I can see there are a lot of benefits to using this program.

Sep 29, 2018 03:52 AM #6
Property Valuation Construction Home Tips
PeterMarkSEO - Holiday, FL
Full Time SEO, Local GMB Expert

When I was active in real estate I drew a floor plan for pretty much every high end listing in our office. We were actually the first company in Chicago back in the late 90's with a interactive virtual floor plan tour. With 360 panoramas. As you rotated within the floor plan with a 360 panaorama you could see your location in the floor plan. There were hombuyer measurement and furniture tools too. I presented this concept to Realtors in Chicago conferences all over to try and sell the software. Realtors really got intimidated and felt like the program would take over their job. We actually landed many listings and even sold out listings this way by providing interactive floor plans. Then competitors copied our idea but not exactly. 

Sep 29, 2018 04:08 AM #7
Barbara Michaluk
Weichert Realtors | Silver Spring, MD Phone Direct 240-506-2434 - Silver Spring, MD
Leisure World Specialist / Full Service REALTOR

Thanks for sharing this John. I already have floor plans for most of the condos I sell in my farm but this is good to know in the event I need to create one.

Sep 29, 2018 05:23 AM #8
Brian L. Sirota, Esq.
Bristar Realty (Realtor/Attorney) - Orange, CA
For Solutions: (714) 501-7660

John,  truly interesting to read about the juncture of your free hand and CAD.

A close friend of mine is Bill Burchard,  a superb Realtor in the rain who's authored 6 books on AutoCAD.  

Sep 29, 2018 08:34 PM #9
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

Hi Biran, when you have been drawing by hand on large sheets of paper and can instantly put lead down to see what you are imagining... it is a completely different thing to wiggle a piece of plastic that is DISENGAGED from the surface (screen) making electronic marks.  So totally different that I was dismayed and shocked at what I was about to start doing.  That, and a learning curve to do what I was already good at!  But I kept drawing the facades and elevations by hand as I did not see how this software could do the intricate curves required for period style architecture.

I will look up Bill right now.  Thanks for your comment!

Sep 30, 2018 04:33 AM #10
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi John

This was a fun read about your journey to using today's software.


Sep 30, 2018 07:48 AM #11
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

I went into it kicking and screaming...

Sep 30, 2018 11:11 AM #12
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