TRREB to drop 'master' bedroom term, replace with 'primary' in coming months

TORONTO — Greater Toronto Area home hunters browsing through property listings will soon notice a change.

The organization will use the word "primary" in place of "master," when referencing the main or principal bedrooms in homes in the coming months, said Toronto Regional Real Estate Board president Lisa Patel. "We know that words matter, and this is a step forward in rethinking outdated terms and modernizing the language used in the real estate industry," TRREB said in a notice sent to realtors about the change.

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The Ontario-based board is the latest in a string of real estate organizations to ditch terminology that is often seen as a reference to racism, sexism and slavery.

The Canadian Real Estate Association, for example, switched to using "primary" on Realtor.ca last October after a recommendation from the Real Estate Standards Organization.

"Concerns about potentially derogatory connotations have caused some groups to push to change the 'master' terms," said RESO chief executive Sam DeBord in the recommendation. "While use of this terminology by real estate professionals has been reviewed and cleared of discriminatory violations … consumer and professional concerns have remained, prompting some marketplaces to use alternatives."

While TRREB's change has yet to come into effect, Royal LePage Estate Realty's Asha Forrester was pleased with the decision. "It's about time this was brought to light," she said. "I think for people's perceptions to change our narrative and our language needs to change too."

Though many agents like Forrester have already been using "primary," she has noticed some have yet to make the switch.

When they use "master," she responds using "primary." "It's just a good step to start correcting people, when they do use that," she said.

RE/MAX Hallmark Realty Ltd. real estate agent Desmond Brown was also in favour of the switch and believes it reflects how modern society is handling discrimination. "This new generation isn't taking it anymore and I think that's a good thing," he said.

Brown sees the change as a sign of how language and attitudes evolve, but knows there will be some challenges as adoption happens.

"We're still going to get some Realtors who are going to, you know, push back on this because... some people are just reluctant to change."

TRREB's change in terminology will apply to any entries in its MLS system, on TRREB.ca and on its Webforms platform, where realtors share forms with clients, Patel said in an email.

TRREB's board of directors approved the change following a recommendation made by its diversity and inclusion committee.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2021.

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