Why MLSs should play up their value to consumers
Emily Chenevert, CEO of ABoR and the newly rebranded Unlock MLS, wants Austin buyers and sellers to associate "MLS" with more than just soccer.
- The Austin MLS recently changed its name from ACTRIS to Unlock MLS to convey the organization's goal of making information more accessible.
- In a changing industry, Unlock MLS also wants consumers to understand the importance of the MLS in the homebuying process.
- The Austin market is normalizing after a pandemic-era boom, but sellers still have an advantage.
Consumers need to understand the critical role MLSs play in the homebuying process — especially during times of change in the industry, says Emily Chenevert.
Chenevert, CEO of the Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR) and the newly renamed Unlock MLS, is overseeing the rebranding as well as the rollout of a new Unlock MLS app that can be used by agents and consumers. It's part of the organization's goal to highlight the importance of technology in providing data, including historical information, that can help consumers as they navigate the homebuying process.
"We have an obligation to, I think, support consumers' understanding of how important these marketplaces are," Chenevert said, adding that they want to increase the public's familiarity with multiple listings services so they'll know MLS "doesn't only mean Major League Soccer as it does for many people in Austin."
Formerly known as ACTRIS, Unlock MLS has around 20,000 members and is the third-largest MLS in Texas. Chenevert said the name conveys the idea that the organization is unlocking data for agents and consumers that empowers them to make more informed decisions.
The name change is also meant to draw a clearer line between the MLS and the Austin Board of Realtors, which focuses more on policy, education and advocacy matters.
"It was really about ensuring a distinct brand that matches who we want to be," Chenevert said.
Austin undergoing a post-boom correction
The rebranding comes at a time when the Central Texas real estate market is returning to a more normal state. Austin was a popular "Zoom Town" destination early in the pandemic, and an influx of buyers from higher-cost markets like California drove home prices to unprecedented levels. As mortgage interest rates spiked, the Austin market slowed down in a hurry, with prices dropping significantly.
According to the latest market data from ABoR, prices in June were down 9% year-over-year in the Austin market, with inventory climbing from 2.1 months to 3.7 during that same period.
While the increase in inventory suggests Austin is moving closer to a more balanced market, Chenevert said sellers still have an edge since Austin has been chronically short of inventory for about a decade. But greater stability, especially compared to the first two years of the pandemic, is slowly returning.
"Now that sellers are working hard to price properly, buyers are finding that there's opportunity in the marketplace that might not have been there before," Chenevert said. "[Buyers] are able to take a breath a little bit before they proceed with a transaction, which is a healthy, sustainable thing."
Commission lawsuits could alter MLS practices
Promoting the value of MLSs could become more important in the coming years. With the potential for changes in how commissions are handled, buyers in particular may re-evaluate the benefits offered by MLSs and agents when looking for a home.
Chenevert said both ABoR and Unlock MLS are closely watching what is happening in the compensation class-action lawsuits, and while she wasn't specific about what actions they might take, she said they are thinking proactively about next steps should policy shifts become necessary.