Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 18, 2022

Compliance managers play vital role

LaMar keeps deals moving at Keller

Steven LaMar is the compliance manager at Keller Williams Realty Greater Downtown. - Photograph provided

Asked to boil down his job description to its essence, Keller Williams Realty Greater Downtown Compliance Manager Steven LaMar says he keeps small problems from becoming big problems.

But as he explains what he does for the Washington Street real estate brokerage in more detail, it becomes evident that LaMar, 41, has no small task on his hands.

“I review all of our agents’ paperwork and help them to stay complaint with federal and state laws and our local MLS,” he says.

LaMar’s job is already sounding less than easy when he mentions KW Downtown is home to (as of Feb. 14) 407 agents.

And LaMar eyeballs every entry on every line of every listing agreement, every entry on every line of every buyer’s agreement and every entry on every line of every contract – whether it closes or not.

With this in mind, one can picture LaMar sitting at a desk, buried behind tall stacks of paper as agents pile on more by the minute – or at least staring bleary-eyed at an inbox on a computer monitor that won’t stop dinging as new agreements come in.

Fortunately, that’s not the case, LaMar says. Or rather, it’s no longer the case.

“The market is very active but the workload is manageable,” he says. “Keller Williams implemented new software in 2019 that allows me to look at only completed documents.

“Before then, our system displayed everything. I’d look at an agreement and say, ‘There are 15 amendments here. Which ones are actually executed?’ The new system is a lot nicer. It brought down the stress level.”

With the software streamlining LaMar’s workflow, he’s able to focus on what he says he does best: identify issues with compliance before a contract is sealed.

“I’m familiar with every line of every contract in all three of the states in which this office does business,” LaMar says, referring to Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, “so I’m able to head problems off at the pass.”

Although many potential pitfalls exist, LaMar says the differences in the laws between the three states lead to the most errors.

“We’re based in Tennessee but we have a lot of deals coming out of Georgia, where the laws are different,” LaMar explains. “As soon as you cross the state line, you have to change your brain. You’re still buying and selling but you’re under different laws – and that can be challenging.”

It can be challenging for agents, but not for him, LaMar clarifies. As the 2022 chair of Tennessee Realtors’ forms committee, he has a front row seat to not just every line of every contract but also the reasoning and the history behind them, giving him a rare depth of understanding.

This brings up another imaginary scenario. In this one, KW Downtown’s agents wince when they see LaMar’s name on their smartphone when it rings, as they know he’s calling to red ink their work. But here again, LaMar says that’s not the case.

Instead, he says his relationship with the firm’s agents is very positive.

“They usually call me – and I’m happy to answer my phone when they do,” LaMar says. “They can call me early in the morning, late at night or on a weekend. I had a residential practice for 15 years and know business never stops.”

In addition to pouring over contracts, LaMar proofs advertising before it’s sent to a printer or goes live on social media or a billboard.

“I make sure advertising is compliant before the agent spends money on it. I can look at a proof and say, ‘This needs to be bigger, or this number is missing.’”

Whether LaMar is whipping a contract into compliance or tweaking an ad, he says he considers his work to be a service he provides to not only the agents at his office but also the broader public.

“This is a great job,” LaMar says, begging the question of why.

“I enjoy the legal side of what I do, which makes me kind of wonky. I like talking with lawyers and learning their thoughts.”

(LaMar has easy access to legal discourse at home, where he can pick the brain of his wife, real estate attorney Melani LaMar.)

LaMar says he also enjoys being useful. This is evident in his volunteer work with the local real estate association, Greater Chattanooga Realtors, where he’s serving on the 2022 board of directors.

LaMar is also a member of GCR’s Placemaking committee, which decides how the association will use grant money from the National Association of Realtors to enhance local neighborhoods and communities.

He credits his father, broker of the Crye-Leike office in Huntsville, Alabama, with nurturing an interest in volunteer service as he grew up and his first broker in Chattanooga, Vicki Trapp of Crye-Leike’s downtown office, with stoking those embers.

LaMar was working as a Realtor in Huntsville when his wife secured a position with CBL Properties in Chattanooga in 2014. After the couple moved to the Scenic City, LaMar settled in at the local Crye-Leike and became an active member of GCR when Trapp encouraged him to become involved.

Multiple terms on the board followed, giving him the visibility that opened the door to KW Downtown.

Although LaMar’s father is a lifelong broker, LaMar wasn’t thinking real estate when he arrived at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to begin his undergraduate studies. Instead, he had his heart set on biology.

“I was planning to study the life sciences when I saw the building hadn’t been updated since my parents had been there in the 70s,” he laughs. “The business school, however, had a brand new building. I thought, ‘That’s where the money is; I’ll go there.’”

LaMar’s father lured him to real estate soon after he graduated in 2001.

Although LaMar’s work as KW Downtown’s compliance manager keeps him busy, he does make time for his favorite “leisure time” activity – running.

An avid runner, LaMar often hits the trails of Stringer’s Ridge or Lookout Mountain – which are only a few minutes away from the Red Bank residence where he and his wife live – training for an upcoming event.

Earlier this month, LaMar completed the Eagle Ridge 50K in Guntersville, Alabama. He’s currently training for the Chattanooga Marathon, where he and a team of runners from his office will don red KW shirts and compete in a relay event.

Even when LaMar is hoofing his way across Stringer’s Ridge, he’s as close to work as his phone.

He says it’s his pleasure to answer every call and to not only help the agents at his office remain compliant with the law but to also serve the broader community that relies on those agents to make their dream of homeownership come true.