I learned Chief Architect 9.0 easily on my own back in 2004 (I had access to school-use software back then) and used it to design my current house that we had built in 2005. I loved the software but can't afford the $2500+ cost to have it now. When I started working on my basement design and Theater plans, I tried SketchUp but for some reason struggled with it, even despite going through tutorials. I like the results that other forum members get themselves with it but for me, it just didn't seem intuitive as far as how I think and design so I gave it up.
What I ended up using was the more home owner versions of Chief Architect software that had the same easy design function that I knew and does a good job with renders. I picked up Chief Architect Home Designer Suite 2014
for $99. The Designer Suites have online tutorials that are easy to follow.http://www.homedesignersoftware.com/
I have some renders and floorplan samples in my build thread HERE
to give you an idea of what their software does.
The only thing to keep in mind is that I run on Mac and they currently do not have a supported Mac version (they are working on it). It can run using BootCamp if you are a Mac user but I have not taken the time to load XP and setup BootCamp. I loaded it onto my old 2003 HP laptop that was running XP but my 10 year-old video card in there is nowhere near up to snuff for the 3-D rendering that it is capable of doing so my renders are not a full representation. Also, for the very detailed renders regardless of capable video card, it takes a few hours to produce the highest quality render so I generally selected a rendering option that would produce the result in 5-10 minutes of wait time.