When you apply for a VA purchase loan, an appraisal is required. In these cases, before your VA home loan can be finalized, both the VA and the buyer should know about the specific condition of the property, whether it's a brand new home or one that's stood the test of time for many years.
The VA appraisal provides a valuable service, but it doesn’t guarantee that the home is completely free of defects. As the buyer, you owe it to yourself to completely examine the property yourself before you commit to your VA mortgage. A VA appraisal is not the same thing as a home inspection. The appraisal is required, but an inspection is not. Buyers should strongly consider getting a home inspection, often before moving forward with the VA appraisal process.
VA appraisals will look at the value and the broad health and safety conditions of the property. Did you know a fee appraiser doesn't necessarily state whether the plumbing works properly or perform a roof inspection? Those are just two of the areas where "hidden" problems could be lurking.
In addition to less obvious problems, a VA fee appraiser isn't obligated to recommend cosmetic repairs, and while the appraiser may be a trained observer, it's not possible to find every potential problem. You'll need to provide your own input on the condition of the property and make sure it's up to your standards before signing the VA loan agreement. If it's not, you'll need to negotiate further before agreeing to purchase the property. This is where a home inspection can pay off.
When it comes to homes that are under construction or custom built as part of your VA mortgage agreement, there are slightly different issues and methods of recourse. For construction defects in homes that were given a VA-directed fee compliance inspection (carried out by a VA or FHA/HUD-assigned inspector) the government has a complaint system for home buyers. This system is meant specifically for buyers who have failed to get redress on their complaints from the builders, so you should try to get the builders to correct the problem before resorting to filing a complaint with the VA.
It's important to note this complaint system is meant for construction defects the VA determines were caused by the builders, who would then be obligated under VA regulations to repair or fix them. The VA cannot force compliance, meaning the builders could (in theory) walk away from the project with the defects still in place. But in cases like these, the VA revokes that construction company's right to do business with the VA, so the incentive to work with the buyer and the government is strong.
In some cases the buyer may have a complaint about the construction of the home they're purchasing with a VA home loan which the VA determines still falls within the government's minimum standards. These cases are not ideal, but if the VA determines the minimum standard has been met, the issue is settled from the government's point of view. In addition to this, you have a limited time to file your complaint--usually in the first year you own the new home.