Real estate is a business rife with euphemisms. Usually, in general language, there at least a whiff of truth in stereotypes and cliches, and the same can be said for many of these sometimes hilarious and primarily sales-oriented descriptions. In reality, there is a fine line between antique and old; charming and weird; rustic and dilapidated; small and cozy; and so forth. Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder.

In the majority of relatively older homes, the problems are not physically hidden, but rather mentally hidden. In other words, you might not see potential headaches and money pits if you don't know where to look. That's where we come in and, as real estate experts, help you know what to look for. Read on for five areas that deserve a close look.

1. Begin at the beginning: The Foundation

Once you find out how old a home is (10, 20, 50 years old or more), you can make a relatively safe assumption that its foundation is the same age, although in a small number of cases a new foundation may have been added later. A home's foundation really is its base, and not just in name only. If any part of the foundation is cracked or broken, or shows signs of mold, it could foreshadow costly repairs in the very near future.

2. Plumbing

A large number of old homes will likely still have cast-iron pipes. Cast-iron pipes collect minerals over time, which can lead to corrosion, which in turn can lead to constriction and leaks, which can then mean you having to repair or replace your entire plumbing system. Ouch. 

3. Determine the age of the electric wiring

If the home is old enough, it might still use the outdated knob-and-tube wiring system. These can spell not only incredibly expensive rewiring projects, but also pose a serious fire hazard. Check with an electrician because, even if the wiring is not ancient, it may still be advisable to update parts of it for safety or to bear the load of modern usage.

4. Up on the roof

Most contractors worth their salt will tell you that replacing a home's roof is one of the costliest repair projects of them all. Be sure you know what you’re dealing with – in other words, how long do you have until the roof needs to be replaced? It pays to know.

5. Ensure insulation is up to date

Remember when asbestos wasn't akin to a swear word in our lexicon? It actually used to be a good thing, providing a heat-resistant, fireproof insulating material for pipes, brake linings and electrical systems. Now that we know its health-related shortcomings, asbestos has all but disappeared from the earth. The point here is that home insulation is impacted a great deal by changes in technology. And in Michigan, where extremes in temps are actually the norm, you need to know the age, type and efficiency of your home's insulation. You may want to upgrade or modernize your insulation (or at least plan for the expense of doing so) in order to reduce your power bills. It’s also possible, especially under a home, that insulation has been water-damaged and may not be working properly. In fact, insulation could be trapping water against wood and creating damage.

So, if you are living in or considering the purchase of an older home in Novi, it can really pay to look for problems in areas that you don’t normally see every day. Paying a trained professional can really pay off when it comes to your foundation, plumbing, wiring, roofing and insulation.