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What Hardware and Software Do You Create Floor Plans With?

Published: 19/07/2012

I haven't talked about floor plans in quite a while. Karl Inge Punsvik, the northern most real estate photographer in the world (Narvik Norway 68° 25? 14? N), reminded me of this recently when he pointed out that he has been researching floor plan creation software recently and has come to the conclusion that he likes the best.

If you are going to provide floor plans as a service there are two essentials:

  1. Floor plan creation software like to create great looking 2D or 3D plans.
  2. A fast and easy way to measure a home. You can get a laser measuring device for about $90 USD.
It appears to me that we are in a transition from using a laser measuring device and something like to tablet based systems in the future. The tablet based systems are interesting but not quite ready for prime time. I tried MagicPlan, an App for the iPhone, about 6 months ago and it's interesting but doesn't work all the time.
Note: Be sure to check if the home seller has a set of blue prints for the home. About 30% to 40% of our listing customers have had a set of  blue prints tucked away in the attic or some place that I can just scan and do a quick floor plan "tracing" from a photoshop layer above the scanned floor plan.
Floor plans can be a very compelling add-on product. The reason photographers should consider adding it to their list of products is you are already in the property and most people can do a floor plan sketch of a medium size property in about 30 minutes. Also, the floor plan can be integrated into a tour beautifully. A floor plan gives a huge advantage to buyers trying to visualize a property.
What are you using to create floor plans?
Larry Lohrman

20 comments on “What Hardware and Software Do You Create Floor Plans With?”

  1. I have had experience of using existing blue prints from the owner, nearly 100 percent of the time it's not exactly the same as what's built so watch out for those minor changes.

  2. Yes, when I make a floor plan from a blue print I always label it "Not to scale - For marketing purposes only".

  3. True, blueprints or builders brochure based floorplans are seldom 100% accurate. Leica Disto for measuring, accurate, reliable, durable and not too expensive. for floorplan drawing. However, I hate the Meropix interactive floorplan. Clunky and unattractive.

    Love, with reservations, the interactive floorplans. They displays exactly how I would design it. However I have my reservations. It is expensive to set up, but, the killer for me is that it is Flash based, my worry being that it will become obsolete.

    I'm looking at possibly creating my own version using Indesign using hotspots with a roll over action and publishing as an interactive pdf. Anybody any experience of this ?

  4. I've done about 4-5,000 floor plans over the course of the last 6 1/2 years. For the first three years the company I worked for used an old Win 95 program from a company that was bought out by Autocad. It was 2D and worked well for floor plans, but is very out dated now.

    When I went out on my own, I did most of my work [photography and floor plans] through a graphics company that printed the marketing materials for agents. They used Indesign and I created a symbol library for fixtures and features (sinks, windows, doors, etc) and drew all my plans to scale 1:100 and used the scale drawings to compute total area.

    I've tried a lot of the amateur plan drawing programs and found them--without exception--to be gimmicky (too many features) and too inflexible when recreating how a house actually is, versus designing one from scratch.

    The graphics company I work with has tried a number of off-shore drawing services and continues to find that the corrections/additions that are needed end up taking more time to get sorted out than it would take to draw the whole thing from scratch in Indesign.

    Time involved to do the on site sketch can very from 10-15 minutes for a 1-2 bedroom apartment/strata/condo to 1-2 hours for a complex 2 story designer home with significant outdoor features. Time to redraw the final version on computer runs 2-to-3 times the time spent on site.

    Do not discount the liability you may be assuming when you create a plan. You need a significant disclaimer on your web site, on each plan and on each invoice/delivery memo to the effect that this is an artistic rendering to show the approximate relationship between and sizes of various rooms, that it is not an architectural drawing and all details and measurements intended to be relied upon should be independently verified.

    I work in Adelaide, Australia now and will be visiting relatives in the US (Southern California) in Dec & Jan and am available for limited consulting at reasonable rates if you need help getting started with plans.

    Cheers JD

  5. is a link to the free Microsoft Research Image Composite Editor (ICE) download. It's a multi-row photo stitcher, and works great for automatically stitching a builder floor plan too large to be fully scanned in a single image on your copier/scanner. 24x36-inch plans can be quickly scanned in four corner sections on our 11x17-inch copier/scanner. The four scan files are uploaded to our PC, opened in Photoshop to rotate the two images that were scanned upside-down to right-side-up (not sure this is necessary), automatically stitched in ICE, and you have a nice, accurately aligned, single-image floor plan in less than a minute. We're always pleasantly surprised when we can obtain 1980's builder floor plans from the third or fourth homeowner. We don't trace outlines in Photoshop; just present the original floor plans and caption that they are for illustration purposes only, and also caption the most glaring differences between the plan and the as-built house. The differences are frequently drawn on the plan with pen by either the builder or original homeowner.

  6. The latest version (2.2) of MagicPlan for the iPad makes it a lot easier to make revisions as well as to draw rooms where corners are blocked by furniture or built-ins. It also permits one to enter exact dimensions, using a device like Leica's Disto D2. I am planning to work with MagicPlan more extensively in the weeks ahead and will be glad to report at some future date how well it is working out.


  7. I agree with Silvio regarding SketchUp. It's amazingly easy to use, and very quick for 2-D floorplans. I've used for everything from staging pre-planning to renovation work to furniture design.

  8. Hmmm. Floor plans. Floor plans for our business are a bonus to make the tour a little more interesting especially with the hot spot navigation that is possible through Tour Buzz. Because we charge higher than the area average for the "photography" portion of our work, we use the floor plans as an add-on charge. The floor plan software we use is Sensopia/Magic Plan app on the iPhone or iPad and we do it on the fly when shooting the home. This give a rough out plan that is "good enough" for our use. If someone needs a very detailed floor plan we hire measure comp and charge cost plus 30%.

  9. John Driggers is more realistic in his approach. I have worked with AutoCad and Microstation for over 10 years in 2D as well as 3D. To do a floorplan right I need about a whole day.
    Most realtors have no experience with good photography, but most real estate photographers have no engineering background. That said, you as a photographer take the pictures for the realtor and leave the floorplan to a designer. At least if you want a good result.

  10. Workflow: Measure with a Leica Disto and draw (walls only) on the iPad with Floorplanner app. I then email a PDF of the floor plan to myself and import into Sweethome 3D. Draw walls over the top, furnish and render. There's a few steps involved but the 3D floor plans just blow the agents away. I also find it really handy to do a quick walkthrough video with an iPhone to take note of doors, windows, cabinets, etc.

  11. We've been using with pretty decent results. However, it can, and will throw a wrench every now and then by doing something totally unexpected... like filling a room with a texture and not being able to remove it. They also really need to add an 'undo" button.

  12. Our company is one of the first to offer interactive floorplans in the US, and we've designed 2 pieces of software to facilitate that - the mobile "field" software to create the measurements and input the data, and the "backend" publishing software that generates PicturePlans -

    The field software has been tested on thousands of floorplans over the past 9 years, and we've developed a comprehensive manual/teaching procedure which we've taught to our photographers, and those working with other companies. To measure the floorplan we used to use Leicas exclusively, though in my opinion, the Bosch laser measuring device is no worse - and much cheaper.

    Because our field software is integrated with our backend software, there is no "data loss" between the field measurements and the final floorplan - as John Driggers pointed out. The backend software can also generate a wide variety of deliverables and floorplan formats- for example, we automatically create a floorplanner presentation with every PicturePlan.

    We currently offer our services in several markets through out the US, and are in the process of creating a licensing model for individual photographers that practice in markets we don't service.
    -Max Eydelman

  13. I'm also a fan and I've been using it exclusively for the last two years. It's had a nice upgrade lately where it will output the 3D plan with a rendered look rather than just an illustration look (only for the creator to output though, not the viewer). They're very pretty to look at and totally furnishable by the viewer. Here's one for a one bed apartment on Sydney Harbour -

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