A: Thanks for contacting me, and thanks for your service.
As you say, the first step is to get qualified for financing. I use a local lender in Olympia, she is very good at what she does, and works with military (long distance) a great deal. Her name is Jan Ward, email@example.com. I would contact her by email and get the ball rolling that way. She can qualify you via email.
A local is lender is nice to have in these difficult economic times…someone you can reach out and touch.
The first thing she will ask for (if you are planning to use your VA guarantee) is your VA certificate. Your PAC or PSB can get this for you. She will also request other financial info, and your authorization to pull your credit. Keep in mind that you will want a comparison of VA versus Non-VA. VA loans are about the only loans that will go zero down nowadays, but they cost more to process. Ask for a Good Faith Estimate for both conventional and VA…federal law requires that a lender provide this document.
A good middle of the road price range for the home you describe is 200-220K. At current interest rates (about 4.5%), your estimated payment on a 220,000 home would be about $1300.