Hilary Farr Shares The First Thing Couples Should Do Before Starting A Home Renovation

A successful home renovation is a considerable undertaking, and it becomes all the more difficult when you have to agree on its details with another person. If you're in the middle of a home remodel with a spouse or partner, then you're more than likely to butt heads a few times before the project is finished. While disagreements are a natural part of the process, you can avoid larger conflicts by agreeing on one thing straight from the get-go: the budget. According to HGTV designer Hilary Farr, that's the first thing couples should do during a home renovation. It sets the expectations for how big the project can get, helping both parties stay realistic while deciding on upgrades, appliances, and demolition. 

If you don't become clear on what your max budget is, then the sky could seem like the limit. For instance, if one partner is only comfortable spending $20,000 on a kitchen remodel, but the other partner has no budget in mind, then they will clash on everything from which appliances to buy to how involved the demolition can be. That's because one person will try to spend as little money as possible and choose items in line with that tight budget, and the other will be brainstorming ways to create their dream designer kitchen. Here is a closer look into why Farr thinks budget needs to be the first thing you discuss before breaking ground.

Farr recommends aligning on the budget

As a seasoned designer, Farr knows how important a budget is — especially when working with a team. A kitchen remodel on a budget of $20,000 is much different from a kitchen renovation with a budget of $70,000. However, if partners aren't aligned on how much they're spending, there will be a lot of unnecessary conflict during the design process. "Money conflicts are very common among all couples I work with," Farr told HGTV. "I share my opinion pretty quickly when I realize that one partner wants a giant fridge and the other partner wants a practical investment." She helps them decide on what they're comfortable spending as a unit rather than individually, which allows them to meet on a middle ground.

To avoid creating unnecessary strife, make sure this is the first thing you discuss. If you can't agree on how to keep the reno on a budget, you can use some recommended benchmarks as your guide instead. For example, you can use the "15% rule", which recommends spending no more than 15% of your home's value on the house renovation. This will keep you fiscally responsible and force you to tackle the most valuable projects first.

How to determine your renovation budget

If you don't want to follow a one-size-fits-all rule like the "15% Rule," then you need to sit down with your significant other and decide on a budget both parties will be happy with. To do that, first, determine the breadth of your remodel. For example, are you trying to renovate the entire house or just sections? If sections, perhaps you can tackle one major remodel at a time to avoid straining your budget. For example, two of the most costly renovations are the kitchen and bathroom, so avoid doing those at the same time. However, bedrooms and dining rooms typically don't cost much to remodel since there aren't any appliances or plumbing in those spaces, making them easier to tackle with the bigger-budget rooms.

If you can't decide on what needs to be done first, consider the home improvements that offer the most bang for your buck, meaning the projects that offer the highest ROI or resale value. For example, according to Bankrate, the projects that provide the highest ROIs in 2024 are new garage doors, new front doors, kitchen remodels, new siding, and a new deck addition. Garage doors provide 194% ROI, a new entry door offers 188%, a kitchen remodel gives 94%, new siding gives you a return of 84.3%, and a deck addition is 75.5%. With your budget in place, you can finally start your home renovation project, ensuring you and your partner are on the same page.