This Valentine’s Day, an engagement may be off the books for many unmarried couples striving to afford a property together.

The average cost of an engagement ring is $5,500—about the same as a 3% down payment on a home in some markets. Many couples may wonder whether, instead of marriage, the right question to pop is: Will you buy a house with me?

“Diamonds are forever, but purchasing a forever home—or a starter home—with your significant other can be part of a diversified wealth strategy,” says RE/MAX President and CEO Nick Bailey. Consider that the average homeowner’s net worth is more than $200,000 compared to renters’ $6,000, he adds. Still, “everyone’s situations, budgets and goals are different.”

More than a third of Gen Zers and 21% of millennials say they plan to postpone marriage until they sign a property deed, according to a new LendingTree survey.

Weddings and homeownership aren’t cheap, which may be sparking a shift in priorities. The average cost of a wedding is $30,000, according to Zola, an online wedding registry and planning site. Add that to the price of an engagement ring and the growing costs of the “big day” may be prompting some couples to delay their nuptials in favor of homeownership first. After all, in places like Cleveland, a 3% down payment on a median-priced home is $6,000—not that far from the price of an engagement ring, according to the latest RE/MAX National Housing Report.

Asking Wedding Guests for Help

Surging housing costs are impacting romantic decisions. Some couples are choosing to move in together prior to marriage and pool their money to better afford rising housing costs. For a growing number of couples, they also are turning to their wedding guests to help fund their home purchase.

Couples are adding onto their wedding registries cash donations for a “home fund” to be used for purchasing a property or paying for renovations. Home funds have emerged as the most popular wedding registry cash fund option—with “honeymoon fund” a close second—on wedding planning sites like The Knot. And 85% of couples who created a wedding registry over the last two years say they wish they had asked for money for a down payment for a home instead of traditional wedding gifts, according to a® survey conducted this summer.

First-time home buyers are increasingly relying on others’ help to afford homeownership. About a quarter of first-time buyers used a gift or loan from friends or family for their down payment, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2023 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.

Affordable Markets Attract Young Couples

Young couples are targeting affordable areas in which to put down roots, regardless of whether their first concern is the cost of the marriage or the mortgage. Only 59% of home buyers in 2023 were married couples—the lowest share since 2010, according to NAR’s report. Nineteen percent were single females; 10% were single males, and 9% were unmarried couples.

By targeting affordable areas, young couples may be able to find a home sooner than they expected. The latest RE/MAX National Housing Report shows where a 3% down payment comes the closest to the average $5,500 cost of an engagement ring:  

  1. Cleveland
    Median home sales price: $209,450
    3% down payment: $6,283.50
  2. Wichita, Kan.
    Median home sales price: $215,000
    3% down payment: $6,450
  3. Pittsburgh
    Median home sales price: $220,000
    3% down payment: $6,600
  4. Dover, Del.
    Median home sales price: $235,000
    3% down payment: $7,050
  5. Detroit
    Median home sales price: $235,000
    3% down payment: $7,050
  6. Tampa, Fla.
    Median home sales price: $237,500
    3% down payment: $7.125
  7. Tulsa, Okla.
    Median home sales price: $243,000
    3% down payment: $7,290