2022 has been a bad year for software stocks. Many companies that were once high flyers are now down 30%, 50%, and even 80% this calendar year as investors have become more pessimistic about the space. While there may be more carnage to come in the near term, now is a perfect time to scoop up shares of those software stocks that have been sitting on your watchlist.

One especially appealing choice is Autodesk (ADSK -1.69%), whose shares are down 30% this year. Here's why late 2022 may be the last time you can buy shares of Autodesk at its current price of about $200 per share. 

Autodesk: Consistent top-line growth

Autodesk sells software products for architects, engineers, construction workers, and the media industry. Its products help people design, manage, and test their work all through a software program, saving time and money in the process. Its most popular products include AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor, Maya, and, increasingly, Fusion 360 and the Autodesk Construction Cloud. 

Since going through a transition to subscription-based products, Autodesk has shown consistently strong top-line growth. In the last five years, revenue has grown by more than 10% year over year every quarter, which shows the reliability of selling mission-critical software subscriptions to businesses. This fiscal year, which ends in Jan. 2023, Autodesk expects to generate around $5 billion in revenue, up from just over $2 billion five years ago. With the increasing digitization of the engineering, infrastructure, and construction industries, it's likely this growth will continue into the future.

ADSK Revenue (Quarterly YOY Growth) Chart.

Data by YCharts.

Multiple long-term tailwinds

There are multiple reasons why Autodesk has been so successful in recent years. One huge factor has been the growth of building information modeling (BIM) standards across construction projects. BIM standards just mean physical assets need to have realistic virtual models for companies to utilize and track. Autodesk's Revit is the leading BIM software program worldwide and is seeing increased demand because of these government mandates. With the vast majority of countries still at less than 50% BIM penetration, this tailwind should help increase the demand for Revit products for many years to come.

Autodesk also has two promising new software suites that can drive growth over the next five years: Fusion 360 and the Autodesk Construction Cloud. Fusion 360 is a cloud-based manufacturing design platform that helps easily connect workers who are designing and building mechanical products. It entered the engineering software market at a cheap price of just $500 a year, and with its cloud connectivity approach, the offering has gained market share rather quickly. Last quarter, it had 211k commercial subscribers, up 20% year over year, and grew its billings at a 100% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in the three years ended with the second quarter of fiscal year 2022.

The Autodesk Construction Cloud is even newer than Fusion 360, formally launched around two years ago. It has software programs for people who actually build construction projects (as opposed to Revit, which is mainly for architects). These tools help workers communicate, send documents, and monitor worksites, replacing legacy pen-and-paper solutions. It's not material yet from a revenue perspective today, but its flagship product Autodesk Build grew monthly active users (MAUs) 60% quarter-over-quarter in the latest period, which shows how rapidly it's being adopted by customers. Over the next five years, it can become a meaningful contributor to Autodesk's business.

Why the stock is cheap and why it's a buy today

At a price of just under $200 a share, Autodesk currently has a market cap of $42 billion. This fiscal year, management expects the company to generate just under $2 billion in free cash flow, which is the best profitability metric for a software company. That gives the stock a forward price-to-free cash flow (P/FCF) ratio of 21.2 if Autodesk can hit the high end of its guidance.

For a company that has a clear path to growing its revenue and earnings at a double-digit rate this decade, 21 times free cash flow looks rather appealing. On top of this, Autodesk's earnings have been depressed this year due to the rising value of the U.S. dollar, which impacts the value of international sales (over half of Autodesk's sales come from outside the United States). If you have at least a three- to five-year time horizon, Autodesk stock is a bargain right now.