How to Create Real Estate Floor Plans

October 26th, 2016

LaserMeasuringIvy in New York asks:

I was wondering if you know where I can learn how to create floor plans for my real estate clients? Is there an app you can recommend.

There is a huge number of floor plan Apps. Most people that do floor plans use some kind of laser measuring device to quickly measures rooms. Back in July of this year, we did a poll on which Floor Plan creation software as the most popular.

Which floor plan product you use will depend on how elaborate a floor plan you want to make and what’s popular in your market. Over the last several years, floor plans have gotten more elaborate. There are three basic types:

  1. Upper-end 360/3d: If you are shooting upper-end homes you may want to look at Matterport which can make both floor plans and 360 3D images. These make more sense for upper-end because the camera to create them and the hosting service is fairly expensive.
  2. 2D Black and White: On the other hand if you just want to create a floor plan to integrate into a virtual tour you will want to get a laser measuring device (like this) that will allow you to quickly measure interiors and use software like either FloorDesign or MagicPlan for the Mac or EZblueprint for Windows. All of these make simple black and white 2D style floor plans.
  3. 3D colored: For creating more elaborate floor plans that are 3D, colored and even have furniture floorplanner.com is a good choice. Floorplanner.com also makes an iPad App called FloorplanFinder.

What is your favorite floor plan creation software?

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14 Responses to “How to Create Real Estate Floor Plans”

  • I’ve been using magic plan (IPAD) for almost two years. Love the product and fairly intuitive. Hasn’t crashed a lot (maybe 3 times a year) and the outputs are fine, though the print can be improved. If you do get into floor plans, some caveats for you to consider…

    -have an iron-clad disclaimer or watermark on your image to CYA. Something like “…these are cartoon renderings….yah-dah-yad-dah.”
    -I make it very clear to my R.E. clients that I offer interior room dimensions and not square footage. Big difference.
    -be prepared to spend a heck of a lot more time on-site to create plans. Figure between 30 to 45 minutes per 1k sq. ft. And of course, this assumes the rooms you are creating are “square” and not odd-ball shaped like bump-out rooms, 6 or 8 sided rooms, rooms with many jut-outs, etc. And speaking of odd ball shaped rooms…. You probably should consider a clause in your price structure that would allow you to charge a fee for homes with more complex footprints.
    -who’s your competition? Some of the home improvement box stores offer floor plan renderings. They send a team of guys out to cover a house in record time. Just a WAG, but I think these guys get paid an hourly rate of maybe $15. How much do you want to get paid for your time? Is your output any different than their output? Not to mention, three guys can cover a 3k square foot house in about 30 to 45 minutes. It would take me about 2 to 3 hours by myself, and then photos. Yea….maybe 3 to 5 hours total time at a house with about 3k sq. ft. between floor plans and photos. The point in all of this? Will the sellers be upset at the length of time you need to do everything? What about the R.E. agents and their time to baby sit, assuming they don’t trust you and cannot leave you unattended? And before I receive darts or criticisms from any readers out there about length of time for everything I do, I’ve pumped out nearly 350 shoots so far this year, with 48% of those shoots containing floor plans and an additional 6% of those photo shoots containing floor plans only. I wear all the hats – floor plan, photos, process, etc. No one else on payroll. FYI.

    FTR, I recently completed a 6k square foot house for a Sotheby agent and talk about odd-ball shaped rooms and unique features!!! I was on-site for almost 5 hours. But despite the on-site time, my output was 95% complete when I walked out the door and I spent maybe an additional 30 minutes at home tweaking the plans. The agent was well aware that the house was odd-ball shaped and was grateful for my accuracy. $450 was my price. The point in all of this? Protect yourself with your pricing. You can bill out by the hour, by the square footage, or contract price based on GLA. However you go about your price structure, just make sure you charge a fair price for your service.

    In sum, get the magic plan app ($9.99 per month) and practice at home using the app. Do some friends house. Do some freebies. Put your big toe in the water for rendering floor plans and see if it is worth the dip and the swim. Word on the street is that Canada’s Real Estate Governing Body is slowly gravitating and will soon be mandating that all homes must have a floor plan or square footage (something like that…maybe some Canada readers can chime in on this comment). While I doubt the U.S. market will move in this direction like our sister country, at the very least you will be poised and at the ready should the U.S. entertain the same idea. Not likely it will head in that direction, but just a note to you. Also and not to mention, you can generate an extra revenue stream in your sales mix if you offer floor plans as an additional service to further set you apart from other photographers in your market.

  • Not an app, but by favourite floor plan software/tool is over at http://www.roomsketcher.com
    You can check out some to the plans I’ve created here: http://www.punsvikfoto.no/eiendomsfoto/
    I use around 15-30 minutes per floor with this tool, including placing furnitures and filling walls/floor with colours.

  • I purchased a Matterport camera, about 4 months ago, to use for our team’s listings. We recently listed an 8,500 sqft home and used Matterport, as well as photos and video, to promote it. At the same time, Matterport just released their 2d floorplan functionality so I was excited to try it. WOW! After the model was complete, I pushed one button and 24 hours later I had an incredibly detailed floor plan that I could have never recreated manually with any amount of time. All for and extra $36. If you do a lot of floor plans, especially on larger homes, you might consider adding matterport to your bag of tricks.

    Here is the listing in question, look for the red view floor plan button.
    http://www.loft360media.com/2199_noreen_ln/

  • Without going to the expense of a Matterport camera (plus having the advantage of editing your own photographs with no blown out windows and pinched bottoms, having access to numerous skin options, and being able to do floor plans for multiple floors) look into Virtual Pictures (VPiX), vpix360.com, which will permit your shooting complete panoramas of the dwelling and each room and attach a Magic Plan 3D floor plan.

  • While there are many apps that can capture the floor plan, they take some getting used to and in some cases can have some substantial upfront costs. As mentioned above, Matterport and MagicPlan are 2 of the more popular ones.

    With Matterport you need to purchase a special $4500 camera, an iPad and pay hosting and processing which is $49/month. If you are only doing a few here and there the cost per floor plan can be prohibitive given the upfront camera purchase and ongoing hosting/processing fees. Further, unlike shooting stills where you can temporarily move stuff to a different side of a room to capture a shot, the entire room/home has to be perfectly staged. You or someone else is going to be responsible for that and it’s a pretty tall order for most homes. The good news here is you get a totally immersive 3D virtual walk thru of the home. This is great for higher end listings where agents are willing to spend money and stage the home. The learning curve to use the camera itself is not very steep. A friend had his teenage son do his home with very little instruction. Lastly, if you are looking for a simple 2D plan in a PDF or Jpeg that agents typically want for their brochures, you would need to pay $40 or so extra for someone to take the Matterport scan and create that for you.

    MagicPlan on the other hand is a much lower cost alternative but you don’t get the cool immersive 3D experience. The app is free and can be used on your smart phone, you do however pay $2.99 per plan or $9.99 per month to get the Jpeg and PDF that most agents are going to want. The bad news here is there is a much steeper learning curve and complex floor plans can be a challenge. Very easy to capture one room but when your are putting several rooms together to complete an entire floor plan, it will definitely take some getting used to. I assume this will get better over time.

    While the 2 aforementioned services are great, what you get is a floor plan…..Where does it go and what about all the other media and tools agents need to market a listing? Stills for the MLS, brochures, YouTube videos and the marketing tools for distribution and sharing?

    Warning! Here comes a gratuitous plug….

    At http://www.floorplanonline.com we can take floor plans from MagicPlan and Matterport and incorporate them with all the other media like stills, video and printable brochures all under one URL/property website.

    If you’d prefer not to have to invest in a special camera or train yourself to use and an app, you can submit hand draw sketches or architectural plans and we will clean them up for you.

    We also provide agents with all the value added marketing tools they are looking for like tour distribution, social media sharing, lead capture, agent branding and visitor reporting.

    Now you can incorporate all the services you offer and the marketing tools agents are looking for under one roof.

    To learn more about how we partner with photographers, please visit http://floorplanonline.com/for-photographers/ to learn more.

  • @Jeff Griggs

    What a beautiful listing and beautifully done. I’m very curious what you charged for that property with the stills, video, aerial, matterport, etc. If you don’t feel comfortable posting it here you could email me at photosbydanieljames@gmail.com. Also, just an FYI, we are on opposite sides of the country 🙂

  • Can anyone comment on how accurate MagicPlans dimensions are?

  • Matterport and other 3D cameras with a depth sensor are catching on fast. We have been drawing floor plans for Matterport photographers since February and business looks good. Waiting for Google Tango powered devices, plus what Microsoft just announced today (Paint 3D app).

    Unlike the floor plan that Matterport provides themselves, our Blue-Sketch floor plan is delivered within one business day (MP promises two, although Jeff Griggs got it in 24 hours), it is unbranded so you can put your own logo on it (or we put in on your behalf), plus we are real people in New Orleans who you can call any time if you have a problem. Matterport is serving only via their support email which can take days to respond. Check out http://www.blue-sketch.com or call (917) 291 2533 (Petra).

  • @Daniel Bigley

    I do in-house media/marketing for our own Real Estate team. We do not offer services outside of our own company. Income is derived through commission splits so we don’t charge our agents for Photography or matterport. I do charge for video ($400 – $600 just to cover costs) only because it’s a serious bottleneck.

  • Hi Ivy. I have been working as a service provider with FloorPlanOnline for over ten years now. One thing that I have been told over and over again, is that for a cost comparable to what most agents spend to have a home professionally photographed, we can create a custom marketing web site, provide detailed floorplans, and shoot high quality photography. Why buy new equipment, struggle to learn new software, and waste your valuable time trying to do it yourself when we can do it all for you…efficiently, professionally, and affordably.

    Most agents that I know hate having to even measure a home, let alone trying to create their own floorplan. It can be tedious, confusing, and time consuming. And those same agents know that their time is better spent marketing, showing homes, and closing deals.

    By the way, the Matterport tours are very cool, but they lack all of the associated tools that an agent needs to properly market a home. At FloorPlanOnline, we can integrate the Matterport 360 experience right in to your custom web page and provide a complete marketing package including brochures, high resolution images, interactive floorplans, and more! Please consider giving our service a try. You won’t be disappointed.

  • @Robert Moreno, You make an excellent point about the time it takes and how much you can realistically charge. If there is a home improvement store in the area that offers a floor plan service, it might be a very good idea to check them out and see what they charge. If you are only bringing in half of the income per hour doing floor vs making pictures, it doesn’t make much business sense to offer floor plans if you are already well booked for photos.

  • I would be curious to know how everyone is going about marketing this? I can’t see this as a huge selling point for my area, and have never noticed any listings use floor plans with the exception of new builds.

  • Jordan – Marketing floor plans is exactly like marketing any other value added services you might offer, HDR vs Standard photography, staging, drone or video as an example. It’s all about supplying content that will differentiate the agent and the homes they are selling.

    The first question a home owner is going to ask a listing agent is what are you going to do to market my home? If an agent is competing for a listing they need to show some tangible differentiation. In that sense it’s no different then professional photography. If I get your listing, I’m not going to shoot it with my cell phone, I’m going to bring in a Professional Photographer and do some drone shots or a floor plan to help your home stand out.

    Similarly, a listing is an agents opportunity to market themselves. The home they are marketing and what they do to market it is a direct reflection on them. Thousands of buyers are going to see that home online and if the listing agent is doing something unique, they’re going to get noticed and get even more listings.

    So the case has to be made that spending $X more dollars is going to not only help them get a listing, it’s also going to help them differentiate themselves online and get more listings. Do agents get that?? The smart ones do and it’s likely the reason they hire you for photography.

    As far as specific areas, there is no question that agents selling homes in more affluent areas are willing to spend more money. They have to in order to compete and meet the higher expectations of affluent sellers. However, we have agents who sell homes ranging from $200k to $1M. Many use floor plans on all their listings regardless of price since they know the listing is their opportunity to market themselves…

    Last but not least, I think you’d have to agree that because of technology and competition, real estate photography is becoming commoditized. Cameras are getting cheaper, faster, smaller and easier to get better results and that trend is going to continue. If you want to stay in this business and make the same money that you make on photography, it only stands to reason that you need to provide and promote other services that agents can’t pull off themselves. Having said that, it’s not it’s going to fall off the cliff…. There will always be agents who don’t have the time to do it themselves, can’t be bothered with technology and want to prove their value to the sellers by hiring professionals.

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to stay out in front of the curve.

    We all know agents are a frugal bunch and it’s difficult to get them to part with a dollar. They look at as if I spend $X on a listing that reduces my commission by $X so they are looking at is as an expense rather then an investment. I’m not going to spend $X on (name the additional service). The question you need to ask is would you spend $X to get a listing? If the answer is yes and you position then have them offer that additional

  • There are quite a few software solutions out there for drafting floor plans and they are fairly easy to use and fast (e.g. roomsketcher.com, floorplanner.com). The difficulty and the most time consuming part of the task is taking initial measurements onsite and capturing initial layout. Like any specialized task, this one requires specialized tools if you want to do it fast and accurately, minimizing time spent onsite. Agents normally do not want the process to take more than an hour and that’s for both measurements and photos.

    Planitar has developed a mapping system that allows capturing 2D floor plan data at a normal walking speed. The camera system literally builds the map of the space as you walk through it. In addition to that, the camera system uses a DSLR with a fisheye lens to take HDR panos. HDR processing (exposure fusion actually) is done by the hardware in real time and you can see the result right away. The laser data and images are then sent to Planitar to draft floor plans, extract all room dimensions and accurate square footage.

    Another result of this process is the iGuide – a 3D tour with integrated floor plans and 360 panos. In the end, the agent receives the iGuide report on behalf of the photographer that has all branded/unbranded links to the 3D tour, image gallery downloads, PDF floor plans and also detailed room dimensions and most importantly, square footage analysis – all they need to get their listing going. Turnaround time is important here – if photographer uploads data to Planitar on the day of the shoot, the iGuide is completed the next day. Accurate measurements, floor plans, 3D tour and still images – all from a single provider (throw in twilight photos and drone video if you offer them, they can be part of the iGuide) is what helps marketing it to agents.

    The laser scanner in the Planitar system measures with 1.5″ uncertainty out to 30ft which beats MagicPlan, Matterport, and all Tango and Intel RealSense based devices. It takes about 30mins to collect iGuide data for a 3000sf home which is untouchable by any other technology. Depending on how much time you need to take additional still images, you can be in and out of the house in under an hour. Here a short speed test video:

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