Forget Diamonds: Down Payments Are a Girl's Best Friend

Man proposing to woman, sunset
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This year, Valentine's Day falls on the Friday before a three-day weekend, giving lovebirds plenty of time for elaborate, drawn-out celebrations.

But before you hire a skywriter or horse-drawn carriage, or wow your sweetie with diamond jewelry, be sure that you know what your beloved really wants. Because, it turns out, sparkly signs of affection like may be lower down the list than you thought.

A recent survey by ERA Real Estate of 1,000 people in committed relationships showed that nearly 50 percent of women would be willing to forgo a diamond ring in order to save the cash for a down payment on a house. In fact, 18 percent of those who responded said they already had skipped the ring in favor of the house. And 89 percent of those surveyed said that their love bond was strengthened by buying a home together.

How Much Cash Are We Talking About?

So, exactly how much house could a diamond buy? Let's use the most common piece of jewelry -- the diamond engagement ring -- for our comparison.

According to and's 2013 survey, the average diamond engagement ring costs $5,431. And, according to National Association of Realtors' data, the national median existing-home price for all of 2013 was $197,100.

So a 5 percent down payment on that median house would be $9,855, and forgoing the average engagement ring would you more than halfway there.

Not Everyone's Willing to Give Up the Bling

One interesting finding from the ERA survey shows that there's a bit of a generation gap when it comes to deferring diamonds in favor of down payment money.

While 50 percent of women in their 20s would choose the home rather than diamonds, only 8 percent of women in their 50s and only 2 percent of women in their 60s would give up the bling.

Are older women more sentimental? Maybe. Or perhaps they're already living in their dream homes (or have the down payment question squared away, either in liquid assets or home equity) and would prefer a more traditional show of affection on Valentine's Day.

Michele Lerner is a Motley Fool contributing writer.

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When my husband and I got married 34 years ago, I settled for a smaller ring and opted for a houseful of new cherry furniture, paid in full (remember Pennsylvania House brand!), and 40% down on our house, which kept the mortgage payments manageable and we paid it off in the 20 years it was written for. All this allowed us to have European vacations and nice things all the time and not be strapped paying a backbreaking mortgage or for a ring that I might not have worn all the time. Oh, and I got more diamonds later, paid in full, and no financial stress. We both retired early, have very decent tax shelters and are thankful we didn't waste money on a huge debt-wedding and ring just to be the talk of the office.....and how many of those unpaid-for weddings have ended in divorce!!?

February 10 2014 at 5:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I prefer she buys me a new fishing reel (Schimano) This article infers that men have all the money which is not true at all and women would like a $500 K home ?

February 10 2014 at 1:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SPQR's comment

$500K does not buy much of a home. I live in the deep south, not exactly known for high budget real estate, yet 1/2 mil in my area does not go all that far . The "nice" properties in my community sell for a million and up. We have worked hard for everything we have... no debt, a beautiful home, a handsome retirement savings, and best of all, as a woman, I have both a fabulous diamond and schimano fishing equipment (trout, walleye, northerns, bass as well as whatever turns up while deep sea fishing). The only problem is when my ring becomes encrusted with Zeke's floating bait. Life is good when you are on the correct side of the Rubicon.

February 10 2014 at 3:00 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jpfmtka's comment

There are only 2 reasons I can think of why you made the statement you did. One is because your only comparing the real estate in your area (where there is an extremely high cost of living) when you made your assumption. Or your minimum definition of a nice home is a 5,000 sq. foot mansion with a lot of property.

The national market in the US is vastly different than your statement when it comes to defining a nice home. The median ASKING price for homes is currently 251K for METRO areas (meaning much higher cost of living areas). So the median home value of all homes nationally being 197K makes sense because metro real estate typically costs anywhere from 15-35% more than the average property. An asking price of 410K in a metro area puts that home in the 75th percentile. So an average home that is worth around 410K puts that home in at least the 80th percentile (probably a bit more).

So if your living in a home nicer than 80% of Americans I think we can safely call that a nice home. So a 500K home is definitely a nice home. I can use myself as an example. I live in an area where the cost of living index is 103, so it’s the ideal definition of an average cost area.

My house is worth about 401K. I work in a job where the pay level for the lowest level employees is higher than 90% of Americans. And I point that out because these people bank money so their standards of what is nice is higher than most people. And at my work most envy where I live because they consider it a very nice house/neighborhood. So 500K on average buys a very nice house.

February 10 2014 at 3:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

I prefer he buys me jewelry and when I put in for the house its my 50/50 contribution, what this article says is women get paid less.

February 10 2014 at 12:54 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

I've been saying this for years!!! The money blown on an engagement ring and the wedding can easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars. That money would be much better spent on a down payment on a home, or invested in a retirement account. Half of all marriages end in divorce anyway, so why not invest the money in something that will outlast many marriages?

February 10 2014 at 12:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to RMS's comment

and the guy never gets the ring ! and in many cases he does not get the house

February 10 2014 at 12:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Depending on weight, cut and quality, a diamond can appreciate in value. It can be passed down in family, with no estate/capital tax. For an investment, stick with a round brilliant cut diamond and do your homework about quality and prices.

A boat or a car is a money pit, unless it's a rare antique in excellent condition.

February 10 2014 at 12:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What makes women think that they deserve anyhting? What about the men? What do they want?
How about a downpayment on a boat? Motorcycle? Women over 60 want a $5.000 ring ? How about using that for retirement. That ring in the aftermarket is worth nothing. You can always sell a boat.

February 10 2014 at 11:40 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SPQR's comment

From your post, it suggests men are disinterested in home ownership. My spouse and I own a home we love that continues to appreciate in value. Both of us also have diamond wedding rings... mine being quite significant and worth three times what was paid for it in the 60's. We also owned a 32' cruiser at about $10,000 annually to slip, operate and maintain. After enjoying it immensely for about 7 years, we sold it for about 70% less than we paid for it. I'll stick with real estate and diamonds.

February 10 2014 at 12:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jpfmtka's comment

That diamond ring will fetch about $200.00 bucks. Appraisals are meaningless. Try and sell it and see what you can get actually get for it. 7 years of a boat is more fun!

February 10 2014 at 12:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down