• You don't have to visit an architect to draw up a blueprint of your dream home. There are several web sites that allow you to create house plans online. Choose a site depending on your budget and skill level. While you can use online software to design a very detailed house, even down to interior elements like carpets and furniture, you should run the plans by an architect before beginning to build: The feasibility of your design will depend on a number of factors the software can't assess.

    Free Services

    You can find free blueprint-building software in several places online. SmallBluePrinter is a free service that lets you start with either a blank plan or one of four sample house plans. You can click and drag to move walls, doors and windows. There are three ways to view your design: floor plan, isometric (a flat, slightly angled aerial view) and 3-D. FloorPlanner also has a free service for personal (rather than professional) use; it lets you create one house and share it with several other users.

    Pay Services

    If you're willing to pay for access to online software, there are even more house-building tools you can use. Plan 3-D lets you build your house blueprint and then click and drag in furniture, cabinets, and even landscaping. You can also apply textures to surfaces--put wood on floors, wallpaper on walls and rugs on floors. A subscription to the online software costs $15.95 a month and $35.40 a year. Second Life, the popular virtual-reality game, is an interesting test site for building your dream house. It'll cost you money, you have to buy land to build on, but the software includes building and designing tools. You'll also need the Second Life currency--Linden dollars--to purchase furniture. For video-game aficionados, this can be a fun way to demo your house design.

    Professional Services

    FloorPlanner's Pro accounts offer more options and let you create more plans than its free service does. These accounts are good for real estate developers, contractors and other people who build, sell or develop houses. A large pro account allows you to make 150 virtual tours and decorate your house with 20 custom themes. Up to 10 users can share your house plans. It costs $149 a month or $1,499 a year. Google SketchUp also offers professional-level house-building tools online. For $495, it allows you to create 3-D models that you can animate and "fly through" to explore the space you've designed. You can also export 2-D and 3-D renderings of your designs in a variety of formats, and print them in various sizes.


    Google Building Maker

    Plan3D: Home Design Tool

    SmallBluePrinter: Design house plan blueprints online

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