Most real estate pros disagree with ‘master bedroom’ name change

by Meg White

What do the readers of Atlanta Agent, Boston Agent, Chicago Agent, Houston Agent and Miami Agent magazines — produced by Agent Publishing, which has a readership of more than 100,000 — think about the term “master bedroom?” It turns out to not be that big of a deal for them.

After the Houston Association of Realtors and Chicago-based real estate firm @properties announced that they would stop using the term “master” to describe bedrooms and bathrooms, a robust debate sprang up among real estate professionals across the country. The impetus behind the decision is that the term “master” can be construed to relate to slavery, and that other terms such as “main” or “primary” would be closer to neutral.

To better understand how agents and brokers feel about these changes, Agent Publishing sent a short survey to its readers asking what they think about the moves, as well as for their thoughts on other issues of inclusivity in the industry.

Overall, most respondents said they did not think the term should change; broken out by city, this equaled out to 69% in Atlanta, 75% in Chicago, 77% in Boston, 85% in Miami and 88% in Houston. Many felt that there are bigger issues that should be tackled instead of this one, though others were open to and even applauded the change.

Many other terms emerged as problematic to real estate professionals, such as those harkening back to plantation times, ones associated with gender (“his and hers,” for example) and those with connotations relating to Fair Housing or the Americans With Disabilities Act (such as neighborhood names that imply who should live there or the term “walking distance”).

Readers also offered many thoughts on industry inclusion. Some said real estate is already very diverse, such as a Chicago reader who remarked, “The industry is already inclusive. Where else can a person of color, like myself, excel in business without a degree?” Others offered concrete ideas on how it can become more welcoming to both professionals and clients who are members of traditionally marginalized communities. “A focus on the legal and harmful laws and policies that hinder people of color’s homeownership is a more powerful discussion and movement,” said another in Atlanta.

While individual answers numbered in the thousands, the infographic below offers a condensed look, edited for clarity in many cases, of what readers think of the situation.

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  • Timothy Joseph Phelan says:

    If 88% of Houston Real Estate professionals disagree with removing “master” then why was it changed? Who made that decision? And why? It’s very apparent that the “master” is the owner…..and how is that offensive to anyone? Just asking….and would like to receive a reply.

  • Ann says:

    This is totally ludicrous. Trying to make something out of nothing. just want to get another useless movement going? stop the madness. there is nothing wrong with any of these terms. Butler pantry, maid quarter….. people… butlers and maids can be of any color. there is no racism in those terms.

  • Joan Martin says:

    The political correctness wave in our country defies logic. New rules are made up every day, and people are punished for not knowing the rules or not falling in line. We have global problems, COVID-19 problems, people out of work and struggling to pay rent or mortgages and feed their families, no school for kids. Lack of daycare for those who do have work is a much bigger issue than what we call a bedroom. We are focusing on trivia instead of actually serving others. I’ve been a Realtor for 33 years, and I have sold hundreds of houses in 3 different states. The criteria is “what price point, how does your credit look?” It’s not about color, and yes, I too, am in a so-called minority class. So what! I don’t wake up every day thinking about my ethnicity and who might offend me. Let’s follow the Golden Rule and do our jobs professionally.

  • Judy Sax says:

    I don’t think that we should change the term–this will open a pandora’s box…are we going to change the name of the post graduate degree, “MASTERS” as well?

  • M.Saccente says:

    If the words ‘master bedroom’ triggers your client, might not want to be in a contained environment together.

  • Lonnie Wade says:

    We as Real Estate agent see change in this business daily so why is this change a problem. It does not matter if it is offensive or not, just another change. Primary bedroom sounds great to me. Maybe we should ask ourselves why are we disagreeing with the change & why is it called the master bedroom?

  • Yvette Schenck says:

    The word master, according to the dictionary, means the following:
    “most important
    ​the largest and/or most important
    the master bedroom
    a master file/switch”
    Will they change the terms masters degree, or master electrician, or any other variations of this adjective? Master as used to refer to the derogatory term is a noun, not an adjective.
    I personally do not think that we should change a term because it has a secondary, unrelated meaning.

  • Agelia Pérez Márquez says:

    What this data doesn’t show is what the demographics are of the survey voters. For example, were agents and brokers of color more likely to prefer that the term “master” bedroom be changed over anglo agents and brokers. I suspect that if an overwhelming number of agents were not of color, the larger percentage of votes for there not to be a change would coincide with the demographics.