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Emily Chenevert and Greg G. Sax, Head of Communications, RESO

Welcome to “Three Questions,” an interview series that introduces you to real estate industry professionals, their businesses and how they interact with real estate standards. The goal of the series is to humanize the tech side of the industry, fun included.

This week’s interview is with Emily Chenevert, CEO of Unlock MLS and the Austin Board of REALTORS® in Texas. We talked about the merits of broadening the MLS concept to other countries, being a rabble rouser from a position of leadership and creating new names for MLSs. Enjoy!

Q1: You participated in the first International MLS Forum in Paris in 2023. It was exciting to see so many U.S. and Canadian MLS representatives there, and you were among them! Why was it important for you to assure that Austin was part of the conversation?

Emily: It is actually an extension of work we’re already doing – connecting to international markets. We’re bullish on the Austin market right now, so being part of any initiatives that create opportunities for expanding the presence of global influence in our market is a great fit for us. Expanding the presence of MLSs among international audiences is aligned with these efforts.

We’re passionate about why MLSs are important in creating transparency and equity in housing markets and want to do our part to spread that word. We’ve been intentional about being a conduit for international dialogue.

On the association side of our business, we serve as the Ambassador Association to the Ireland real estate marketplace through a relationship with the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers (IPAV).

The International MLS Forum events have been focused on Europe so far, but it’s not just Europe for us. We’ve developed strong relationships with Canada and Mexico and see significant benefit in continuing to expand those relationships.

We’re also starting to see more Korean entrants into Austin centered around the new Samsung chip factory. Our infrastructure and location services continue to improve on that front and many others.

Q2: I’m not sure if you know this, but you have a reputation – positive, I might add – of being something of a spark plug for change. Is that fair and can you speak to that interpretation of your leadership style one way or the other?

Emily: I think it’s fair, and here’s why.

The structure that we all work in within organized real estate is legacy in a variety of ways if you are looking at the rules and business structures we operate under, and I don’t think we need to stay attached to those structures forever. 

At Austin, we want to support agents in their relationships with consumers, support current and future business models, support unique tangential businesses through data licensing and so on.

I also want to create the cultural space beneath the CEO position for more discussion about the difficult facets of our business – about legal ramifications and other topics that make us squirm. It’s important for the staff team at every level to feel comfortable digging into the hard stuff.

There are a lot of real estate leaders that have been in the business for a very long time. At some point, those leaders might be ready for their next chapter. There is great potential for significant leadership change in the relatively near future, and I believe in investing in the bench beneath today’s leaders to train up the future generation of talent.

Q3: You recently created a new brand name for your local MLS – Unlock MLS. It is officially a trend in the MLS space to rename as something not so geographical. How did you land on Unlock MLS?

Emily: There was definitely intention behind creating a brand that gave consumers an immediate understanding of what the MLS is and does.

I run two businesses, an association and an MLS. They’re not the same strategically and should have brands that identify those differences.

When we set out to create this brand, we partnered with a local marketing and branding firm that had created some popular local work, including Austin Beerworks. Great branding and good beer, by the way. Working with someone that knows Austin was an important aspect of this work for us.

Through a lot of meetings and brand work with staff, leadership and our community, we landed on Unlock MLS, and we’re really happy with the result.


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