How I ruined my client’s marriage proposal, nearly

How I nearly ruined my client’s marriage proposal

24th October 2023: The information below was correct at the time of publication but is subject to change.

Earlier this year I helped a young couple, who were first-time buyers, get a mortgage on a flat in London. They were Erik and Ruby (not their real names, but that’s what we’ll go with). It was a really straightforward case with both clients having good jobs and great credit. It was just going to be about getting them the best mortgage available, which would be the lowest-cost one they could qualify for and that met their needs.

Part of this process was reviewing their documents. It’s best if your mortgage broker reviews all your documents before even getting your agreement in principle and before you begin to look at properties. And by all, I don’t just mean latest payslip, I mean three payslips (though it is possible to get a mortgage with a new job if you haven’t received your first payslip yet), proof of your deposit, ID, and proof of residency where needed, credit file, and, of course, bank statements. Reviewing all these right at the start, not just when you’ve had an offer accepted on a property, means that your agreement in principle is actually worth something. In my opinion, without me reviewing everything that the bank could ask for at a later date and being satisfied it’s acceptable, an agreement in principle isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. This is because something could pop up later that we weren’t aware of. It’s saved me and my clients on many an occasion.

Anyway, here’s where our story begins. When reviewing Erik and Ruby’s bank statements, I of course analysed their spending. There wasn’t much that wasn’t self-explanatory. All fairly normal—just a couple of things I needed clarification on. On Erik’s bank statement, there was a large transaction that was out of place. The description wasn’t obvious, and it didn’t appear anywhere else over the three-month period I sampled. So along with a couple of other transactions, it went on my list to ask them about.

Happy with everything, I fired off an email to Erik and Ruby, just asking them to clarify a few things before confirming an agreement in principle…

Minutes later, I got a panicked call from Erik.

“Jamie, can you recall that email?” he asked.

“Erm, I don’t think so. Why, what’s up?” I was curious as to what I’d just put my foot into.

“Engagement ring. The transaction you are asking about is for an engagement ring. If she Googles the reference, it’ll be obvious.”

There was a pause.

“So I’m guessing you haven’t popped the question yet?”


We came up with a plan. Ruby has a job where she can’t really access emails during work hours. I then sent them a couple of emails telling them to disregard the previous one, as I’d made errors or something. I just needed them to clarify the points below. And then I found an excuse to send another one, the idea being to bury the email asking about the engagement ring transaction deep in her inbox so she’d just read and reply to the newer messages.

Thankfully, it worked.

I’m pleased to say that a few months later, I heard that they were engaged, and Erik told Ruby about the little situation that happened when I asked about the transaction on the bank statement.

Now we can all look back and laugh.

So what’s the lesson here? Well, I have worked with people who pre-empted such things and privately messaged me to say, “By the way, you’ll see a transaction on this date, which was for an engagement ring, so please don’t mention it.”

I put my foot in it another time when helping a doctor and his surgeon wife get a mortgage. I asked a gentleman about thousands of pounds in monthly transactions. He came back to me privately and explained he was buying and selling crypto currency. He added that if I had any future questions about his bank statements, I should message him individually and not include his wife—clearly, she didn’t know, and I suspect was not happy

You see all sorts of weird things on people’s bank statements. Recently I had to ask what Sexy Mama Love was. Turned out it’s an Italian restaurant in Nottingham (and my client recommends it if you’re in the area). I have in the past seen payments to, erm, adult-content websites in one client’s account and wondered if their partner knew, but as it was obvious what the spending was “entertainment and recreation,” there was no need to ask for clarification on it. And no, that kind of stuff on your bank statement is not going to stop you from getting a mortgage. Read more about that here.

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