As far back as 2013, MLS organizations have been moving away from the term “master” when describing the largest en suite bedroom in a home. Just last week, the Houston Association of Realtors joined the west and east coast associations and will ditch the term, too.
However, North Texas Real Estate Information Systems (NTREIS), the organization that manages the MLS of MetroTex Association of Realtors, said that they are listening but have no plans to change the use of the term in the fields of the listing software.
“NTREIS tries to adhere as closely as possible to the standardized field names for the industry,” said Cindy Miller, Chief Operations Officer for NTREIS. “There have been discussions recently at the national level simply inquiring about the term ‘master’ in a historical context.”
That historical context that Miller refers to is the use of the term “master” with an eye to a time at which some Southern land owners went to war to preserve their right to own other people. The use during antebellum, pre-Reconstruction eras pertained to the “master” of a property or plantation.
Some architectural historians debate that origin, though, saying that it was used in pre-colonial times, before slavery in the Americas and throughout Britain to pertain to the male owner of a property who had authority over the servants of the home.
Regardless of the term’s precise origins, HAR’s decision has facilitated a larger conversation in other Texas MLS organizations and beyond.
“This topic is currently being debated across the real estate industry, and the national standards organization for MLSs will be considering a similar change that could make ‘primary’ the new standard nationally,” according to a statement from HAR to its members provided to the Houston Chronicle.
Common Architectural Terms
In fact, builders throughout the nation, including David Weekley Homes, were early adopters of the change. The firm calls the largest en-suite in their new builds the “owner’s retreat.”
“Any MLS can change the label for a field and any broker or vendor that publicly displays listings may also change the label of a field,” Miller noted. “One MLS in Texas has made the decision to change their label to ‘primary,'” said Miller, referring to HAR’s recent change in terminology, “but I am not aware of any other system that has yet made a change.”
Other organizations have taken up use of the term “principal suite,” as well, though there are certainly more ways people will describe it. Could that become a problem?
“One must also consider whether a different term would be readily understood by professionals and consumers and the education period that would be required to change what is currently a common architectural term,” Miller added. “HUD’s Fair Housing guidelines do not include the term ‘master’ as a potentially discriminatory term, but we are sensitive to interpretations that would indicate otherwise.”
The National Association of Realtors provided input from Bryan Greene, NAR’s Director of Fair Housing Policy, to NTREIS, Miller said. He offered the following:
“In January, NAR launched its ACT! Fair Housing Action Plan, which is dedicated to promoting greater accountability, culture change, and improved training among real estate professionals. While several MLSs have contemplated or have made a change in policy regarding advertising terms, NAR continues to rely on HUD’s longstanding policy that common architectural terms do not violate the Fair Housing Act. At this time, we are renewing our focus on substantive fair housing challenges our nation must still overcome, such as the continued discrimination in real estate transactions, great disparities in homeownership among racial groups, and the resultant wealth gap among those groups. NAR will continue to explore actions that will make meaningful progress in eliminating racial disparities in housing.”
MetroTex MLS Committee
“The ideas you referenced are under discussion nationwide and will be addressed at an upcoming MetroTex MLS Committee meeting,” said Bill Head, director of communications for MetroTex Association of Realtors. “If agreed upon a recommendation will be forwarded to NTREIS for consideration by the appropriate committee.”