Red Flags to Avoid When Buying Your First Home

Buying Homes in Colorado


You’re excited to go house hunting and want to find the “perfect” home, right?! It’s easy to get so excited that you want to overlook red flags. However, doing so can be a costly mistake.

Remember: your first home can help you build financial security, but only if you approach it with that in mind! Ignoring red flags, or being pulled in by the lure of a shiny kitchen can cost you!

Don’t worry if you don’t know what to look for: I do, and it’s (literally!) my job to help you see them. Also, remember you will not be alone in this. I am going to be right by your side and will push back if I think you’re off track.

You don’t want a home you’ll regret buying, and I don’t want that for you either.

Some homes might seem good at first sight, but these red flags need to be considered.

Documenting Red Flags: Home Inspection

Learning about the operation of the fireplace on their new, used home in Longmont Estates

Your inspection not only documents red flags, your inspector can help you understand how to safely operate systems in your new home

Your home inspector is the second-most important person on your team (other than your agent). Getting a good inspector is critical to knowing the condition of your home. The only clients I allow to skip inspections are those who have owned multiple properties in the past. (Yeah yeah, I’m not your mom…but it’s that important that I will be that insistent.) Documenting red flags with your first home is THAT important!

A licensed home inspector will examine the home to see if there are any structural and maintenance issues. Some potential red flags are hidden and hard to see at first so that’s why you want an inspector before you buy. I have a few that I just love, and I think you will, too. Here’s a link to my favorite inspector. He only works with a limited number of agents because he’s so in demand. He has nearly 150 5-star reviews for a reason.

And… I will remind you to steel your nerves before we get the results! My inspectors are top-notch and ridiculously picky. They document even the tiny stuff. One made a client cry (true story). Knowing as much as we can find about any defects we can find with the house helps you make an informed decision.

However, you’ll need to decide if anything they find is worth the time and money to fix, or if it’s time to say good-bye. Your inspector isn’t going to tell you whether you should buy the home or not, he or she is only going to observe what is noticeable to their trained eyes on the day of your inspection.

I will review all the red flags that come up on your first home inspection, and you will get to decide if the house is still worth buying. We will review finding such as:

Lack of overall general maintenance. Don’t ignore this since it’s a major red flag that this home hasn’t been properly taken care of for many years. And that means that major issues – such as water damage — could be lurking. (It does not mean it’s a hard pass, just proceed with caution. My first home was in awful visual shape, but incredible physical shape.)

Some fixer-uppers. Some issues are typical for the age and location of your home and not the sign of poor construction. You want to steer clear of a home that has too many issues but isn’t really that old. That’s especially true if the construction just doesn’t seem solid or sound.

Do-it-yourself additions or any DIY work that isn’t up to code. If the addition looks awkward and cheap, it probably is. I get MAJOR red flag vibes in most flips. Some do a great job, others do the proverbial ‘lipstick on a pig.’ I’m picky enough I can generally tell the difference, and I’ll teach you to be, too.

Termite infestation. This can wreak havoc on a home. Few realize there are termites in Colorado. There are, and many say Longmont is ground zero for the Front Range. Consider getting a termite inspection. You can do this for about $50 by calling a termite company. Better now than after you move in.

Moisture in the basement. This can mean two things: the home’s grading has some issues, or there was a water leak. You may see signs of past water damage—that brown moldy looking damage on wood. Mold is a serious issue and can cause health problems if pervasive so tread carefully!

Water marks on the ceiling or walls. This could signal a leaking roof, gutters rusting, or faulty plumbing – all leading to wood rot and other possible destruction. All can be fixed but you’ll need to determine the extent of the damage.

Cracks in the wall and sloping floors. Both could point to possible structural and foundation issues, which can be costly depending on the age of the home. You can get another inspection with a professional who specializes in foundation issues.

Faulty and outdated wiring. This can be a serious fire hazard and you’ll have to consider the cost to fix and update. Inspectors should check for overloaded circuits and proper grounding. If you are looking to do a lot of renovations to an older home, make sure it has enough electrical amperage coming into the home.

Be a detective during home tours

Sometimes you’ll walk into a room and feel like something is not right. Be a detective and examine the home carefully. Do you notice any of these things?

  • A solitary freshly painted wall could be hiding mildew, mold or water damage.
  • Too many air fresheners or scented candles could be masking a strong odor from pets, smoke, or musty mold.
  • An oddly placed rug or piece of furniture could be hiding damaged floors or carpeting.
  • Windows and doors not opening and shutting properly? Could be a sign of foundation settling… Go around and open and close them to double check!

Neighborhood: stable or transitioning?

You want to buy into a neighborhood that will retain and grow its value. How do you know?

If it’s a transitional-type neighborhood, make sure it’s an up and coming one and not declining in value. Sometimes it’s hard to tell by just looking so I can go over current sales activity to give you a more complete picture. Are prices going down or up? How long are properties on the market? Are homes selling for more than the asking price?

Sometimes you can get a good deal if a neighborhood is transitioning. This could be a great opportunity to get in to your first home before it takes off.

New Construction

There are pros and cons on buying new construction. The pros are pretty obvious—you’ll be the first to live there, everything is brand new, and typically features the most modern finishes on the market. The list of “pros” could go on and on!

However, there are some major red flags you should be aware of when it comes with new construction, because new doesn’t always mean better.

Because no one has ever lived in this home to “test” it, there could be a lot of issues that come up well after you move in. No condo building, townhouse unit is perfect, just because it’s new.

In fact, there could be more problems than a “used” home because the kinks haven’t been worked out yet. If no one has ever lived there, even a home inspector can’t find issues because it may take ten showers to figure out there is a crack in the pipe!

If it’s a new condo building, it’s possible for HOA fees rise substantially the first year after delivery, again, because there is no history to “test” the fees.

I personally believe, it’s best to be the second owner of a property after the previous owners have lived there for a few years and worked out all the kinks. Keep that in the back of your mind.


All of these are warning signs to make you step back and thoroughly consider if you should proceed with the home no matter how much you love it. Although many things can be fixed, it really depends on your budget and the time and energy you can devote to what needs to be done.

There is no right answer here, but go into buying your first home knowing what red flags there are… You will have a better sense of what you are getting into and you can avoid any huge surprises down the road.

Hi, there!

I'm Libby Earthman. I specialize in helping first-time buyers and sellers on Colorado’s northern Front Range. I want you to know HOW to make well-reasoned real estate decisions, and I assertively protect your interests during the transaction. 

Let's Chat!



402 Main Street
Longmont, CO 80501

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