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What happened?
According to The Wall Street Journal, leading apartment REITs Equity Residential (NYSE:EQR), AvalonBay Communities (NYSE:AVB), and Camden Property Trust (NYSE:CPT) have all talked with Airbnb about a potential partnership. While the terms of any potential deal are far from finalized, the general idea is that the REITs' tenants would be allowed to list their rooms on Airbnb -- on the condition that the REITs get a cut of the profits.

This could signal a major change in policy for these (and possibly other) apartment REITs, as apartment leases generally forbid subleasing. It's obvious that the marketplace for accommodations is evolving, so it makes sense that the owners of apartment buildings would try to find a way to incorporate it into their business model.

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Does it matter?
This absolutely matters to all three companies' shareholders, as it opens the door to an untapped revenue source that doesn't cost them another dime. While the actual number of tenants who would take advantage of this agreement and market their apartments is anyone's guess at this point, it wouldn't take much to have an impact.

Consider this conservative example. Let's say that just 5% of Equity Residential's 108,000 tenants make their apartments (or rooms) available on Airbnb and that they do so on a part-time basis -- say, 30 days per year. If they bring in an average of $100 per night and Equity gets a 10% cut, then it would add approximately $1.6 million to Equity's revenue. Again, these numbers aren't based on any actual projections, but they illustrate the potential of a deal.

Finally, the less obvious impact is the increased pricing power this can give the REITs. For example, many of AvalonBay's properties are in markets with plenty of tourists, such as New York City. If tenants suddenly have the ability to list their apartments on Airbnb and generate income, then the apartments themselves become more valuable, and AvalonBay can charge more rent for the exact same apartments.

So, while the exact impact depends on the terms of the deal and how many tenants choose to market their apartments on Airbnb, there is potential for a serious revenue boost if a deal gets done.

Matthew Frankel has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.