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.

%VIRTUAL-WSSCourseInline-884%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.