I, too use 3Dhome, and have been for quite some time. About 6 years ago a friend gave me an earlier release of 3Dhome. Without any real architectural experience (Iím an electrical engineer), and without the user manual, I started to play. In a relatively short time I was cranking out designs left and right. I had bought and/or used some other more "professional" residential CAD systems since, but I found none as easy to use as 3Dhome. I have the deluxe version now, and if you would like to see just what you can do with 3Dhome, e-mail me and I would be happy to send a set of drawings. In fact, I have one set which I put together showing a second floor addition to a ranch house, including before and after images. If I can find them, you are welcome to have a copy.
I see some others have commented to you that they doubt the drawings would be acceptable for the purpose of getting permits, but I would have to strongly disagree. Using 3Dhome, I have designed (for me and others) porches, room additions, basement rooms, kitchen remodels, facade changes, none of which caused a problem with getting a permit. In fact the municipalities really welcomed it, as I was told by them that the average DYI homeowner usually shows up with little more than some hand-done sketches, and many remodeling contractors donít do much better. Now, for bigger projects like building a house or adding a second floor, knowledge of all the engineering factors really falls on the professional architect. No CAD program will tell you when you have exceeded a limitation. Itís only a tool to allow the architect to put ideas together faster. Even when I use 3Dhome for applying for a permit, I have to also provide a description of the materials and construction makeup of the project, so knowledge of building techniques is still essential. Professional CADís would help automate that process, but itís still up to the designer to know what can and cannot be done.
One big advantage of 3Dhome is that it can output images in DXF format, which basically means that the drawings you do can be imported to other professional architectural systems, so that when you get something worked up you like, you can give a copy to your architect, and he can finalize the plans for you. It is a pretty economical way to get a feel for what your house is going to look like before you build, from both the inside and out.
I have never used *** ****'s Home Design program. I am sure it is comparable to 3Dhome, but I have read nothing that would make me want to switch. In fact, 3Dhome has a professional version called Chief Architect, which I purchased about a month ago. Actually, 3Dhome was written by ARS (Advanced Relational Technologies), and is really the professional version minus a whole lot of the advanced features. The professional version looks and feels the same, it just gets into the detailing more, and allows for plot printing (blue prints). The web site for Chief Architect is www.chiefarchitect.com.
Iím still in learn mode, but I plan to use it to help remodel an old estate home we just bought. The main reason Iím using ChiefArch instead of 3Dhome is because this house is built on a hill, with multi-levels and a fairly complex roof, which 3Dhome has trouble with. Hopefully the $600.00 I spent will solve that.
Sorry I wrote such a long-winded reply. If you have any other questions, feel free to e-mail me. Iíll try to answer in a timely matter.