Since 1944, when home loan guarantees were part of the original GI Bill, the VA has guaranteed more than 18 million home loans worth over $911 billion. In 2008, 180,000 veterans, active duty servicemembers, and survivors of veterans received VA home loan valued at about $36 billion. More than 90 percent of those VA loans were no-down payment loans.
The VA Home Loan program allows veterans with qualifying income and credit to purchase a primary residence without putting any money down towards the sale price of the home, as long as that sale price does not exceed the appraised value of the home. Veterans do need money towards closing costs as well as earnest money, which the seller generally requires when a sales contract is signed. Closing costs may be paid by the seller, which can be negotiated when the sale price of the home is set.
A VA loan works the same as most other home purchases, with a buyer making a written offer to purchase a home under specific conditions (price, closing cost assistance, other contingencies), and then going through an approval process with a lender. The key difference with a VA loan is that the Department of Veterans Affairs requires that all homes purchased through this program meet certain habitability requirements. They will send out a home inspector and appraiser to make sure that the home is in good working order and is worth what you are paying.
This step may sometimes cause delays, especially if repairs are needed after the inspector looks around. Issues at the home do not necessarily mean that the buyer cannot use the VA loan, just that repairs will need to be done before the home purchase can be completed. The VA recently started offering a VA loan to be used for homes that need renovation on a limited basis.