Unlock MLS logo and the Austin, Texas, skyline.
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News; Shutterstock

The best medicine for MLS ‘disruption’? Info, says Unlock CEO 

The Austin-based MLS will roll out mandatory changes a few days early to help its members “own the moment” in August and beyond.

June 4, 2024
3 minutes

Key points:

  • With NAR settlement changes taking effect in August, Unlock MLS is trying to get the word out to members early and set them up for success.
  • CEO Emily Chenevert hopes their educational efforts will aid in a smooth transition but acknowledges that “we certainly won’t have it perfect right off the bat.”
  • Unlock has created a new Seller Contributions field, where sellers can list potential concessions, and is offering three buyer agreement forms to members.

Multiple listing services have just over two months to make sure their systems comply with new NAR rules — and provide members with the information they need to do their jobs without disruption. 

The Austin Board of Realtors' Unlock MLS, which represents more than 18,000 subscribers throughout Austin and Central Texas, is the latest multiple listing service to unveil its planned changes ahead of the Aug. 17 deadline. Along with rolling out new forms, Unlock is doubling down on member education. The organization has launched a "Right Here, Right Now" campaign that includes several events and classes over the coming weeks, and the MLS created a broker toolkit outlining best practices.

Unlock has also set an earlier deadline for the implementation of changes to its platform — August 13 — to give members a buffer if there are any issues over the first few days of the rollout. NAR's deadline falls on a Saturday, which could make it more difficult for some MLSs to quickly address member questions or technical problems, should they wait until August 17 to launch system updates.

"One thing we've tried to do is to provide this information pretty comprehensively and fairly early," said Emily Chenevert, CEO of Unlock MLS and the Austin Board of Realtors. "It's understandable that change is frustrating… but we're really encouraging (members) to own the moment and take advantage of the disruption."

What changes are coming to Unlock?

Unlock is creating a new Seller Contributions field which allows sellers to indicate if they are open to concessions and specify an amount.

The MLS has also released three buyer agent agreement forms that members can use depending on their situation: A standard agreement; a short form with the intermediary section omitted; and a limited-services form, also known as a touring agreement, that lasts just one day.

Chenevert acknowledged that agents will have access to many versions of buyer agreements coming from their brokerages and elsewhere, but said Unlock wanted to make sure its members had multiple options to choose from.

"We mostly just want to give (members) a choice and make sure that they're able to evaluate them with their broker to figure out what forms are best for them," Chenevert said.

MLSs are making progress, but it could be a bumpy road

Other large MLSs are busy rolling out their own updates. California Regional MLS introduced its "Concessions in Price" field on May 29, while Bright MLS is rolling out a new concessions field June 11. Bright's form will allow members to specify which of four types of concessions their seller will offer, including a concession to pay buyer agent fees.

Northwest MLS, which is broker-owned, has opted out of joining the NAR settlement. The Washington state MLS is keeping its updated compensation field in place, which the organization says offers more transparency for buyers and sellers.

While Chenevert is pleased that Unlock is taking action and educating members well ahead of the NAR deadline, she realizes there are still plenty of unknowns ahead.

"My expectation is that August 13 will be a day that comes and goes, but the days and weeks and months thereafter will be subject to some disruption and discomfort while we're watching the market react and respond to these changes," Chenevert said. 

"If or when we miss something — because we certainly won't have it perfect right off the bat — we want to be working side-by-side with (members) to make changes where we need to."

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