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“Master” or “primary”: A bedroom by any other name

It seems today that there are many social topics that have evolved beyond being taboo but remain in the realm of sensitive. I recently had the privilege of working through one such topic with my team. Collectively, they are some of the best folks a person could have the opportunity to work with and navigate all situations with professionalism, sensitivity and their own (calculated) candor.

As you may or may not know, the Canadian Real Estate Association recently announced it is creating the field “Primary Bedroom” on This would allow MLS systems across the country to feed their “master bedroom” data field to this display name on the public portal if they so choose. My understanding is that CREA’s motivation for this was based on public and member inquiry.

I think the rationale is evident but, to clarify, the term “master” (as a noun) can be, and is, defined in the following ways:

  1. A man who has people working for him, especially servants or slaves.
  2. A man in charge of an organization or group.

Source: Oxford Languages (italics are mine)

At one of the two real estate associations I support as executive officer, there had been requests historically to consider making a change to this terminology, but it carried little value if the display term to the public remained unchanged. Needless to say, when CREA made their announcement, we thought it a perfect time to bring it to our membership.

The response was very mixed.

I know that when the feedback “seems ridiculous” is provided by a member, they are not delivering it with ill will. Rather, they see the term master as non-threatening and simply meaning what they intend it to mean, the primary bedroom. What may be lacking from this consideration is that there are others, across this great country, whose experiences may lead them to see this term very differently, perhaps even as threatening.

A few mornings a week all the staff from both associations I work with get together for a virtual coffee and visit. This started as a COVID initiative but has continued. It was at a recent morning coffee that the group spent an hour discussing the terminology change, the polling of our membership and the responses we received. Three questions surfaced for me that I continue to contemplate:

  1. Do we as staff simply act based on the response from the membership? That is to say, we asked for their feedback, if they (majority of responses) agree with the change, we change it; if not, we don’t.
  2. Do we provide further information and context, or would that appear as though we are attempting to achieve a particular outcome?
  3. What is our role when it comes to lobbying for social change? Is it incumbent on staff to lead this narrative?

“If we hadn’t asked, nobody would have even noticed,” was one comment during our morning meeting. But that’s not the point, is it? If perceptions are going to change and if equal treatment will ever be achieved, then the narrative must change. I am happy to lead that conversation.

On this one, though we will not unilaterally make a change, we will continue to provide more information to the members so that they completely understand the impact of the seemingly insignificant change to one word or, even more importantly, the impact of not changing it.