Surface rust on an older home is fine.. you should still see the black paint, however.. If all you see is rust and it 'flakes' off, RUN.
I was looking at one that was only 7 years old at a dealer once for a good amount of money. Opened a basement door and when I closed it, rust fell to the ground. I crawled under and started poking the frame with my ball point and in a couple of spots it went clear through.
I ran and never looked back