*Exterior antennas, clotheslines, flags, fence types and paint color

*Running a home-based business, including restrictions on parking commercial vehicles

Next, read the association documents, or covenants.

"You think you're buying a home but really, in addition to that, you are entering into a contract and it's a very elaborate one," said Peter Dunbar, an attorney in Tallahassee, Fla.

Ask what the monthly dues cover, whether the association hiked dues substantially in the past and, if so, why? Ask about additional fees, such as move-in fees.

Ask about the size of the reserve fund. Some states, including California and Florida, require associations to follow a reserve-fund formula, but in other states there is no good rule of thumb for how much is enough, Pearlstein said.

At the least, ensure there is an amount large enough to cover future large maintenance costs, and consider talking to a real estate attorney if you're unsure.

Ask when the association last commissioned a reserve study. These studies ensure the association is putting aside enough money to cover major upcoming expenses.

Ask for the minutes from recent meetings of the association's board of directors, and for a copy of the association's most recent financial statement.

"If they don't have one," Dunbar said, "that's a red flag immediately."

If you find it difficult to obtain these documents before you buy, make your signing of the contract contingent on the review of certain documents.