Did you know the Department of Veterans Affairs official site offers some advice to first-time VA borrowers on how the home buying process works?

VA.gov describes the steps used in a typical house hunting and purchasing situation to help borrowers understand what it takes to find, make an offer, and close the deal on a new home purchased with a VA mortgage.

Information such as this is quite helpful for a new buyer because many house hunters looking at their first home loan come into the process with misconceptions or with bad information. A great example--some borrowers might believe it’s possible to apply for the VA home loan first, then purchase the home with loan money. But when it comes to VA mortgages, the process is reversed.

You find the home you want to buy, make the offer, and then the VA loan application is filled out and an appraisal is requested. The VA loan amount is based on the appraised value or asking price, whichever is lower. But you can’t get the loan before you have a specific property to buy.

That said, it IS possible to get pre-approval for an estimated loan amount. Pre-approval helps the borrower know what their borrowing power might be and search for homes within the range of prices open to them.

The VA official site recommends finding a participating lender first, getting pre-approved, then starting the house hunting process.

This is a smart way to go--borrowers who don’t have a lender but find a home for sale may have trouble if they cannot find a lender right away. It’s always possible that the home could be sold to another bidder as the borrower looks for a suitable financial institution.

Once you find a lender, and find a home to buy, the VA loan application itself can be filled out and the VA home loan process can begin. Don’t forget that when you fill out the application you’ll need to have money saved up for expenses such as the appraisal fee, the cost of any required compliance inspections, flood zone determination or other expenses. That’s why planning for a VA loan is so important--the farther out you begin planning and saving for a VA mortgage, the better off you’ll be.

Once the application has been filled out and the VA loan approved, it’s a matter of waiting until your closing date to sign the contract, pay any fees needed to close the deal, and take the keys to your brand new dream home.