Smile if you own a condominium.

A new Northwestern University study suggests that the overwhelming majority of condominium dwellers are happy with their homes.

Despite the controversy that has surrounded condominiums, particularly over conversions, the study found that more than 85 percent of 599 condo owners surveyed were either "completely" or "very" satisfied with their apartments. Those "not at all satisfied" represented a minuscule 1 1/2 percent.

"There is a rather impressive percentage of people who are very positively inclined about condominium living," commented Louis Masotti, Northwestern professor and former director of the University's Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research, which conducted the study. "It seems to me that has been overlooked."

"When asked about those aspects of condominium living owners especially liked," the study says, "the respondents most frequently mentioned the amount of maintenance to keep up their homes. The investment value of the unit was also frequently cited. . . ."

Stories of dissatisfaction notwithstanding, the study found that more than two-thirds of the owners were completely or very satisfied with their condo boards.

"The respondents also said they were particularly satisfied with the level of information provided by their condominium boards and feel their interests are well represented," the study says. "Over 70 percent of the owners said they agreed with most, if not all, of their boards' decisions."

Ranking with high owner satisfaction as a major finding of the study, Masotti believes, was the large number of owners who were unmarried. Those never married, divorced, separated or widowed accounted for more than 64 percent of those surveyed.

The study was conducted in five urban areas, Chicago, Houston, San Antonio, Denver and Washington. It included predominantly large high-rise properties, and of the 599 interviews, Masotti estimates 400 were in Chicago, mostly in lakefront buildings that had been converted from rental apartments.

("There's no question that this is not representative of all condos," Masotti said. "We were dealing with high-rise luxury buildings. I would love in the future to be able to get at residents of 'six-flats' and '12-flats' that have been converted.

Other major findings of the study include:

Condos generally are purchased by people who rented their previous homes. Only 25 percent of the respondents were owners previously. (The majority of those surveyed previously lived in the building in which they bought a condominium.)

Sicty-three percent of the respondents indicated if they were to move in the near future, their prefernece would be another condo.