The MLS power struggle

News analysis: Competition and cooperation don't always mix

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The housing market depends on a smooth, functioning Multiple Listing Service that effectively compiles home listings data and redistributes it back to its real estate agent and broker members. For an MLS to function properly, competitors have to cooperate to meet a common goal. However, cooperation in some markets is fading as the struggle over politics and listings control grows louder and the stakes become higher. Without broker cooperation, the future of the MLS is uncertain, as we're seeing in Chicago with the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois. But Chicago is not alone in its struggle. MLSs nationwide share the same pressures of having to serve all members and appease brokers and shareholders, which often are Realtor associations. MLSs have become huge companies with large sums of money at stake and strong demands for the real estate information they hold. The key to an efficient housing market is for the MLSs not to become distracted by the forces working to pull th...