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During the first quarter of 2011, the multifamily sector continued to improve due to increased rental demand and improving job growth. Based on preliminary third-party data, we estimate that the national multifamily vacancy rate on average fell by 25 basis points during the first quarter of 2011 to 7.0%, after having held steady in the fourth quarter of 2010. In addition, it appears that asking rents increased in the first quarter of 2011 by an estimated 50 basis points on a national basis. As indicated by data from Axiometrics, Inc., multifamily concession rates, the rental discount rate as a percentage of asking rents, declined during the first quarter of the year to 4.64% as of February 2011, after having increased during the fourth quarter of 2010 to end the year at 5.07%. The increase in rental demand is also reflected in an estimated increase of 44,000 units in the number of occupied rental units during the first three months of 2011, according to preliminary data from REIS, Inc. National multifamily fundamentals, which generally include factors such as effective rents, vacancy rates, supply and demand, job growth, and demographic trends, continued to improve in the first quarter. However, certain local markets and properties continue to exhibit weak fundamentals.
Overall Market Conditions.  We expect weakness in the housing and mortgage markets to continue in 2011. The high level of delinquent mortgage loans will result in the foreclosure of troubled loans, which is likely to add to the excess housing inventory. Home sales are unlikely to rise before the unemployment rate improves further. In addition, servicer foreclosure process deficiencies and their consequences have created uncertainty for potential home buyers, because foreclosed homes account for a substantial part of the existing home market. Thus, widespread concerns about foreclosure process deficiencies could suppress home sales in the near term and interfere with the housing recovery.
We expect that single-family default and severity rates, as well as the level of single-family foreclosures, will remain high in 2011. Despite signs of multifamily sector improvement at the national level, we expect multifamily charge-offs in 2011 to remain commensurate with 2010 levels as certain local markets and properties continue to exhibit weak fundamentals. Conditions may worsen if the unemployment rate increases on either a national or regional basis.
We expect the pace of our loan acquisitions for the remainder of 2011 will be significantly lower than in 2010 and the first quarter of 2011, primarily because we expect fewer refinancings as a result of increasing mortgage rates and, to a lesser extent, the high number of mortgages that have already refinanced to low rates in recent years. To the extent our acquisitions decline, we will receive fewer risk-based fees, which are charged at loan acquisition and recognized over time; as a result, our future revenues will be negatively impacted. We estimate that total originations in the U.S. single-family mortgage market in 2011 will decrease from 2010 levels by approximately one-third, from an estimated $1.5 trillion to an estimated $1.0 trillion, and that the amount of originations in the U.S. single-family mortgage market that are refinancings will decline from approximately $1.1 trillion to approximately $413 billion. Refinancings comprised approximately 82% of our single-family business volume in the first quarter of 2011, compared with 78% for all of 2010.
Home Price Declines.  We expect that home prices on a national basis will decline further, with greater declines in some geographic areas than others, before stabilizing in late 2011. We now expect that the peak-to-trough home price decline on a national basis will range between 22% and 29%, as compared with our expectation at the time we filed our 2010 Form 10-K that the peak-to-trough home price decline on a national basis would range between 21% and 26%. These estimates are based on our home price index, which is calculated differently from the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index and therefore results in different percentages for comparable declines. These estimates also contain significant inherent uncertainty in the current market environment regarding a variety of critical assumptions we make when formulating these estimates, including the effect of actions the federal government has taken and may take with respect to housing finance reform; the management of the Federal Reserve’s MBS holdings; and the impact of those actions on home prices, unemployment and the general economic and interest rate environment. Because of these uncertainties, the actual home price decline we experience may differ significantly from these estimates. We also expect significant regional variation in home price declines and stabilization.