Chelsea Buchholtz started January 1 as executive director of the Texas Real Estate Commission and commissioner of the Texas Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board. She formerly served as TREC’s general counsel and is the commission’s first female executive director.
What’s the most important thing REALTORS® should know about TREC?
We’re just here to help. Our agency can fulfill its mission by balancing consumer protection with regulation that supports the continued economic growth in the changing marketplace.
To do that, we need license holders who are successful and well trained and informed. When our license holders are well equipped, it makes TREC’s job a whole lot easier.
How do you see the relationship between TREC and Texas REALTORS®?
First, it’s important to remind everyone that TREC and Texas REALTORS® are not the same entity. We each have our own missions, and people often get us confused.
TREC is the agency that licenses agents and brokers and protects consumers. We regulate license holders and enforce laws.
It’s important to me personally to have a healthy relationship with license holders and the associations that speak on their behalf, especially Texas REALTORS®.
We may not always be in lockstep because we have different roles. But our missions do overlap; they’re not identical. With that in mind, it’s important for TREC and Texas REALTORS® to be candid, communicative, and transparent with each other, and provide the benefit of the doubt to each other. I think that’s happening really well right now. I’m committed for it to continue. I would say our relationship is strong and getting stronger.
What has been your primary focus since starting as executive director?
My first focus has been staffing. I was general counsel before I was executive director, so I needed to hire my replacement. I needed a director of finance.
My other focus is organizational planning. Are we as good as we could be? How could we be more responsive to the needs of consumers and license holders? How do we need to spend our energy and time in terms of our initiatives?
Commission Chair Scott Kesner and I planned a tour across Texas to ask license holders those questions. We couldn’t complete that schedule of in-person meetings, but we will continue that remotely in the next month or two.
What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities for TREC right now?
Well, an obvious challenge right now is COVID-19 and how that’s changed things. There are so many unknowns associated with it.
Also, we have a challenge of how best to reach license holders because of how many there are. If you combine the appraisers and all the real estate professionals who we license, we have more than 200,000 license holders. Engaging with that population on a personal level becomes a challenge but one that is very important to me. Those more than 200,000 people have differing opinions and needs, and we want to support that.
For opportunities, I would say it’s a chance for a fresh start and a new beginning. With every transition comes an opportunity for something new: relationally, culturally, and organizationally. I’m not looking for any sort of wholesale change, but I want to take the opportunity to review and change what’s necessary and to lead with my distinct style and vision.
Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic is going to affect how real estate professionals do business for the near future.
What would you like REALTORS® to know about TREC’s position going forward?
Well, I sense there’s a wariness in the industry and fear of what is ahead in our economic environment.
Let us know how we can help. I anticipate that there will be opportunities. Questions will come up. Do certain rules need to change to allow people to function in this new world? Maybe. I don’t know. But we want to be open to that. There’s certainly going to be a lot of innovation that comes from this pandemic. We want to stay on top of that and stay nimble and supportive of that innovation.
There’s a lot that has changed at TREC related to the coronavirus. Our reception team is now answering phones and emails faster than they ever have. Even though they’re doing so from their homes, on many days our hold times have improved to under 10 seconds. We are very ready and willing to help. We are equipped to do so.
We also have a lot of tools on our website—such as the application status search—that allow license holders to help themselves without even having to talk to a person. We want to be very accessible, and that’s one opportunity for us to do so.
How does your previous experience in state government and the law inform your approach to real estate?
My experience in state government helps me navigate our state agency structure and our hierarchy, from our appointed commissioners to our relationship with the governor’s office and the legislature. Having that prior experience in state government gives me the familiarity and comfort with my role.
The legal training is a backbone for how I make decisions and how I think. It gives me great appreciation for those providing legal support and advice for our agency. There’s great complexity to some of this work in real estate, and I’m really grateful that the lawyers can help simplify it. I’m grateful that I’m able to lean on their expertise and that I get to ask questions.
What does it mean to be the first female to hold your position?
It’s an absolute honor. While I am the first female head of the agency, there has been strong female leadership above and below my role, such as former Commission Chair Avis Wukasch. We’ve also had female general counsels and female division directors.
I do think a female in this role brings a unique perspective. For me, I am currently juggling the privilege of this work with the privilege of motherhood. There has been a generation of women who have gone before me to make it easier for each generation to come. I am grateful.
Anything else you’d like to share with the members of Texas REALTORS®?
I am proud to be associated with your organization. This is a hard time for many in real estate and even beyond real estate. I have no doubt that we will see great resiliency in this hard time. As executive director of TREC, I lead an agency that plays a specific role as a licensing entity, but I want to fulfill that role as an agency with great kindness and humility.
Prior to joining TREC, Chelsea Buchholtz was deputy director of operations for the Community Development and Revitalization Program of the Texas General Land Office. She was chief of staff at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and served as assistant general counsel and a policy advisor to former Gov. Rick Perry. When she is not helping to safeguard consumers, Buchholtz enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, baking sourdough bread, and running.