I also want to point out that the $500.00 several of the agents have referred to is NOT a fine. It is an option that the home seller has as per New York State law. This is pertaining to the New York Property Condition Disclosure Statement Law.
There is a form associated with this law, this link will show it to you:
As it states in the form, homeowners have the option of either filling out the form, or if they want they can opt not to fill out the form and instead give the purchaser a $500.00 credit at the closing. Most sellers choose the latter option at the advise of their attorney. The reason why attorneys usually advise the seller against it is because many of these questions are hard to answer and the seller is not required to find out the answers if they do not know. For many of these questions the seller will have to simply check off "unknown." Lawyers are fearful that if an issue is found after the fact, even if it was not known by the seller, that the buyers may feel that the sellers shoudl have know or did know and they will then try to start a lawsuit (this is America where everyone sues everyone right?). Hence, since the option of giving the $500.00 instead is there, lawyers will always advise their seller clients to take that option.
In my opinion this law is flawed, they should have either not put the law in effect or simply required all homeowners to fill out the form and not give the option to opt out. Regardless of that, buyers should not be scared if the seller opts out of the form, take it for what it is worth. No matter what, you should always have the home inspected before you enter into a contract of sale to make sure there are no hidden problems. Remember, just because the sellers think there are no issues with their home, there many still be a hidden problem that even the seller is not aware of. For this reason, buyers always have to think "caveat emptor" and do their due diligence to make sure the condition of the property is satisfactory.