Coldwell Banker, one of the leading brokerages in Chicago-area real estate, this week severed its ties with the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois, the largest MLS in the country.

Coldwell Banker pulled all of its for-sale listings from 10 of its offices in Chicagoland’s North Shore region out of MLSNI, which has about 37,000 members in more than 6,000 realty offices. Those Coldwell Banker offices will now post listings exclusively with MAP MLS, a smaller broker-owned operation based in nearby Palatine, Ill.

At the center of the controversy surrounding Coldwell Banker’s decision to part ways with MLSNI is the debate over who controls listings data.

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MAP MLS has about 10,000 members, less than a third the size of MLSNI. Some real estate brokers and agents in the area belong to both MLSs. Coldwell Banker’s removal of its listings from MLSNI significantly lessens the amount of exposure those sellers’ properties potentially would receive among Chicago-area brokers and agents who belong only to MLSNI and not MAP.

Doug Ayers, president and COO of Coldwell Banker in Chicago, wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Coldwell Banker didn’t tell MLSNI why it decided to part ways with the major regional MLS, according to James Kinney, president of the MLSNI board.

But local brokers speculated the decision had to do with control over the listings data.

“Coldwell Banker has taken the stance that they would like their listings to appear (only) on their own (Web) site,” Kinney said.

MLSNI has adopted the National Association of Realtors’ policies on Internet data exchange and virtual office Web sites, which govern how brokers can display one another’s listings data on their Web sites. MAP is not subject to NAR’s policies.

The NAR policies allow brokers to opt out of having their listings displayed on other brokers’ Web sites, but MLSNI hasn’t fully implemented that part of the policy yet, Kinney said.

The absence of Coldwell Banker’s listings from MLSNI might prompt some area brokers who belong only to MLSNI but not MAP to also join the smaller MLS. The fact that the MLS is the vehicle for offers of cooperative compensation could be a motivation.

Darcy Dougherty, CEO of the Chicago Association of Realtors, said Coldwell Bankers removal of its listings from MLSNI won’t have an immediate impact on most of the association’s members because the Coldwell Banker offices are north of the city. However, she said, many CAR members are “scratching their heads” as to why Coldwell Banker would choose to remove its listings from MLSNI.

“It’s a bold move…We respect their right to make decisions for their company,” she said.

Local Realtors are watching closely to see whether Coldwell Banker will pull its other offices’ listings from MLSNI in addition to the 10 North Shore offices’ listings and whether other real estate brokerages also will pull their listings out of the MLS.

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