- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2012

Some social scientists define the term “power couple” as a “couple in which both spouses have college degrees.” Consider that the Washington area is ranked No. 1 in the country for the percentage of residents with college degrees (nearly half the population), according to findings from the Brookings Institution, an independent research firm.

That adds up to a lot of power couples in the D.C. area, starting with President and Mrs. Obama and radiating out beyond the White House. While other power couples may not lay claim to presidential realty, they are in real estate.

Power couple Linda and Jamie Wheeler recently celebrated their 33rd wedding anniversary. Along with their long, happy union, they also share a unique real estate consulting service. Mrs. Wheeler, who has worked since 2003 as a Realtor (currently with Keller Williams Realty in Arlington) paired her real estate expertise with her contractor-builder husband’s experience in 2007 to offer consultations to people with specific real estate dilemmas.

“It’s not uncommon for people to run out of space in their homes,” Mrs. Wheeler explained. “They need to figure out what makes the most sense for them. Do they need to sell their house and buy a bigger house? Do they add on to their existing house? Do they want to tear down the house and rebuild?”

Combining their areas of expertise, the Wheelers are able to give their clients reliable estimates for each scenario.

“Just knowing what the numbers are helps people make an informed decision and allows them to make the choice that best fits their situation and their family,” Mrs. Wheeler said.

She said working with her husband as her partner gives her tremendous peace of mind, knowing his estimates are reliable and are not going to balloon out.

“There’s a lot of trust there,” she said, adding that she also consults with him about the cost of home repairs and the price to fix problems that arise in home inspections. “It’s great to be able to bring someone in who can tell us if this is a $100 problem or a $10,000 problem. Your average real estate agent doesn’t have that construction background.”

Power couple Ellie and John Shorb also reported benefiting from their respective roles. Mrs. Shorb has worked as a Realtor for the past eight years (currently with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Chevy Chase) and Mr. Shorb has owned John Shorb Landscaping in Kensington since 1994, which is the year the two married.

“I turn to John when my listings need a curb-appeal face lift,” Mrs. Shorb said, adding that he is a skilled landscaper and great resource. “I have decorators, architects and other contractors whom I trust and love to recommend, and it’s great that John is one of them.”

Mr. Shorb said his wife’s real estate acumen has been a boon to him.

“If other Realtors ask me to do some work to get a house ready for sale, I totally understand what they are asking for and what they are not asking for,” he said. “I also know what to recommend based on a better understanding of what potential buyers generally like and don’t like.”

The third power couple — Delia McCormick and John Gregory — are both Realtors who entered the field as a second career. Ms. McCormick previously worked as a program manager for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and later as a consultant for HUD. “It certainly gave me a background in real estate,” she said. Her husband’s first career on Capitol Hill as a lobbyist and public relations specialist has brought valuable skills to the real estate table as well.

Ms. McCormick became a Realtor in 1995, and her husband joined her in the profession in 2005. Three years ago, their youngest son, James, joined the McCormick Gregory Team, which operates under Evers & Co. Real Estate Inc. in the District. This latest development did not come as a surprise to James’ mother.

“He grew up seeing me doing this, and he was always interested in real estate,” she said, explaining that her son has a bachelor’s degree in business, so it’s a good fit for the team. “When he graduated, we did need help, and so we asked him to join us, and he immediately said yes.”

The family business has worked smoothly and easily, Ms. McCormick said. “It’s been wonderful,” she said. “There’s no one who’s going to make more of an effort to do what needs to be done. There’s no one more committed and motivated. Of course, we work hard for our clients, but we’re also working for each other.”

Like the other couples, Ms. McCormick said her family is careful not to talk shop constantly. “We’re good about reminding each other about boundaries,” she said. “If one starts talking about business, the other will say, ‘Come on, it’s Sunday afternoon - we’ll talk about this on Monday morning.’ “

Mrs. Wheeler said most of her clients are reassured to work with a married couple, but she laughed remembering some advice her husband doled out to a pair of newlyweds.

“They had to make some repairs on a house to get it ready to go on the market, and the wife was balking at some of the changes,” she said. “We kept reminding her that the goal was to sell the house, and she kept saying she wanted to sell the house but not get taken to the cleaners. After every point, she’d add ‘ … and not get taken to the cleaners.’ “

This continued back and forth until Mr. Wheeler said, “Look, you can be right or you can be happy — believe me, this applies to real estate and marriage.”