Am happy to discuss with you - need to be pre-approved by a competent lender - see what amounts you are comfortable paying for PITIHOA - principle, interest, taxes, insurance and homeowner association dues. There are many "preapprovals" but the one which sellers are happiest with is a real preapproval where the lender has taken all your information, verified income, employment assets, and put your case to an underwriter - then you are issued a preapproval which is of substance. As the VA loans are in a class by themselves, you need to speak with a lender who specializes in VA loans and have an agent who understands and can educate sellers about VA loans.
I have a direct lender for 15 years who is extremely knowledgeable and well-respected in his industry who can help you.
Many lending institutions take your information, write a letter saying "your agent can move forward with confidence, based upon our conversation, you can buy a home" and they want you to go find a place first, then come back to them and THEN they'll do the above work. That's easier for the lenders to do it that way.
The trouble is, it's not beneficial to the buyer because, without that work being done before you go house shopping, you have little to no chance of really prevailing in a purchase offer because the sellers are pretty savvy and know that you may or may not really get a loan when the work hasn't been done prior to your shopping and making offers.
Hope that helps! You above all others should be able to buy a home - THANK YOU for serving our country - Jaci Woods, CRS, GRI, ABR, SRES - Broker - Irvine, CA - 714-389-4099