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Home sales may be lackluster and home foreclosure and vacancy rates alarming, but leading real estate firms are still investing in both marketing and technology to help their agents build market share as competition has intensified.

In fact, the U.S. real estate industry was projected to spend nearly $22 billion in 2011 on total advertising, with $8.9 billion spent online, according to a study by research firm Borrell Associates. That puts spending up 8.1 percent from 2010, placing the real estate industry second only in advertising to general merchandising retailers.

That trend continues to benefit Bellevue, Washington-based Imprev, a leading provider of marketing technologies for real estate brokerages.

Imprev recently signed long-term contracts totaling millions of dollars with real estate leaders RE/MAX and Brookfield’s Royal LePage Real Estate Services to deliver more products and services to help their agents and brokers stay ahead of competitors, the company has announced.

While most segments of the residential real estate industry have been contracting, the 11-year-old, privately held Imprev has been expanding. The corporation recently moved into 50% larger space — architecturally designed and configured to maximize collaboration between its engineering, quality assurance and creative teams to increase efficiency and creativity.

Imprev also added two, proven real estate marketing veterans to its roster. Kevin Hawkins, well-known in the real estate industry as a top marketing communications professional, joined the company as senior director of corporate communications and marketing. He will assist Imprev’s clients with additional public relations and marketing opportunities – a new service provided by Imprev.

Carolyn Holmberg joined as marketing director to develop new, integrated marketing programs for real estate agents and brokers designed to streamline their marketing efforts and help them increase their conversion rate of turning prospects into customers.

These moves give Imprev customers more tools and services and will provide additional support to existing clients as well as to other major franchises, multiple listings service firms, independent brokerage firms and through its technology partner channel.

Last year, Imprev delivered several innovations, including “one click to Facebook and Twitter” features for agent marketing materials, an instant Craigslist display ad tool, and the first “Listings Presentation” iPad app available in Apple’s iTunes store, the “RE/MAX Presenter.”

Imprev’s growth over the last five years has been significant, growing four-fold from the 50,000 agents and brokers it served in 2006 to serving more than 200,000 agents today.

Investing to Grow

“We’ve found that in a challenging market, it’s as important where you spend money as it is where you don’t,” said Renwick Congdon, CEO and Founder of Imprev. “Most people will say cut quickly and deep. We learned that by being focused with our investments, we could grow and come out on top.”

Congdon plans to expand his employee base through key hires and strategic acquisitions to deliver the most value for Imprev’s clients. He points to his new marketing team as an example. “Imprev will grow, but we must measure new growth not just by the number of customers we serve, but how deeply and broadly we meet current client needs.”

Hawkins has spent more than 20 years in Corporate Communications and Marketing, developing an array of successful real estate agent communications and marketing programs in his positions at HomeGain, Inman News, Great Western Bank (now CHASE) and Fannie Mae. Hawkins co-created Great Western’s nationally renowned

“Realtor Program,” and at Fannie he helped launch and implement the firm’s “$1 Trillion Commitment” program, which expanded homeownership nationally.

Holmberg is a proven expert in developing marketing solutions for the real estate industry, both as marketing director at Windermere Service Company and as a vice president at Washington Mutual. Holmberg created a direct marketing platform enabling Windermere agents to design personalized, cohesive, and targeted brand marketing collateral. She also developed marketing and training programs for WaMu’s 5,700 home loan consultants.

Fore more information, visit Imprev at