Purchasing a condo and single family home are similar in some ways. However, there are some key differences to be aware of, especially during the inspection process. The primary difference is the fact that you are sharing walls with other units, while also becoming part of a bigger association. This does not hold true when purchasing a single family dwelling.
Since you are sharing internal systems, while also becoming part of a homeowners' association, there are particular steps you need to take during the inspection process.
First off, you want to learn more about the building as a whole. When was the last time the entire building was inspected? Since you are not responsible for some or all of the exterior, this is an important question to answer.
Before getting to the actual details of the unit, be sure to inspect and review condo documents. These can help you learn more about structural costs, problems and future repairs.
On the inside, your inspector will go over the entire unit with a fine toothed comb. Ask him or her to pay close attention to any part shared with other units, such as walls, ceilings and floors. For example, water damage on a ceiling could mean a problem in the unit located directly above.
It is a good idea to have a condo inspected before buying, as this will give you a clear picture of what the unit has to offer. Once this is complete, you are in better position to move forward with confidence. You may find that you need to adjust your contract as the result of problems your inspector finds.
Source: SFGate, "A Condo Inspection Check List," accessed June 09, 2015