Because a condominium is a unique entity and often functions like a microcosm of greater society, it's important to add a few social investigations to your pre-condo-buying checklist besides the usual considerations.

Determining the State of the Union. Your condo association board is, whether or not it actually wishes to be, a wealth of information regarding the actual goings-on of the neighborhood and whether or not there really are smiling owners behind all the glossy brochures and banners. Obtain the minutes of the last few board meetings to figure out whether or not there are any glaring signs of discontent. If you see several weeks worth of steady complaints about garbage disposal problems, rickety construction, or horrendously disruptive addition projects, but you don't see many good answers, maybe you need to keep shopping.

Ask to be shown the money. Your condo association board will have a fund that is payed into by current owners. Find out the delinquency rate on payments for this fund. If it's extremely high, it could be a sign that owners are too miffed by rampant managerial problems to feel their dues are going to be justifiably and competently used. Equally unsettling is the likelihood that such a climate could lead to underfunding for projects, upkeep and maintenance.

Finding the man behind the curtain. If the condo you are currently eyeing is managed by a professional company, you must be prepared to scrutinize them mercilessly. Demand an interview with the head manager and get a feel for his or her competency handling the problems that normally arise in the course of condo living. Ask people you see walking around the area how they feel about the overall maintenance capability and responsiveness of the folks charged with handling repairs, disposals, updates, etc. Beware of condos that are managed solely by owners, even though oftentimes a good group of people can excellently manage their own properties. However, some owners can live half a world away, and their ability to properly see to the needs of the properties and community greatly diminishes with distance.

Read the fine print. Otherwise you could be in for a world of hurt. Make sure your condo association's bylaws not only seem sensible but check out with the law. It is well worth your time and money to have a real estate lawyer look over the fine print for you before you commit yourself to a potential legal quagmire. It has been known for some careless managers to copy bylaws applying to one condo arrangement and nonsensically apply them to totally different situations just to save time. Imagine the legal confusion that could arise from arguing over bylaws that stipulate the proper use of shared areas, amenities and utilities that don't actually exist!

Pause to find the clause. Ensure your condo literature includes a building-ordinance clause, which should cover some or all of your upgrade costs should the condo you buy not be up to current code. Again, have a competent lawyer check out your paperwork before you commit.