Elías Legra Jr., “Stay out of debt as much as possible”

The Neighborhood

Elías Legra Jr., “Stay out of debt as much as possible”

Expert advice on how to build good credit and financial stability

MAJORITY partner, Elías Legra Jr., is a real estate consultant based in Miami who helps people to achieve their dream of buying a home. 

For over 40 years, Elías Legra Jr. has been advising people on how to make the best use of their money. First, through real estate, then mortgages, then insurance, and lately, financial education to help his customers buy their home.

His background as a son of Cuban immigrants has helped him understand the kind of hurdles people face when they first arrive in the US.

“It's tough. It's scary when you come to a country, you don't know what to do, you don't know anybody.”

Actually, it was his father who first started the family business, Legra Realty Corp, many years ago when he devoted countless hours to help recently-arrived Cuban immigrants with their taxes. “I learned a lot from him because that's what I saw. That's how he started,” Elías Jr. recalls. 

MAJORITY: Describe the services you provide. 

Elías Legra: Our main focus is on real estate mortgages. We also help with credit restoration through a nonprofit organization by the name of United Education Credit Services. They're the ones who help the people with their credit restorations and their establishment of credit. I'm a licensed mortgage broker and a licensed real estate broker in the state of Florida.

M: What drew you to this area of business?

EL: Helping people with their credit. By helping them, we can solve a lot of problems and achieve their dream of homeownership. Education on credit doesn't exist anymore. They don't teach you about it in school. What we're trying to do is educate the consumers out there.

M: Why is it so important to start building a credit record as soon as you arrive in the US, and why does it need to be good?

EL: The credit score is probably the most important vital sign with respect to finances. You'll be able to get better rates for homes, for mortgages, credit cards. Most credit card interest rates are too high and the person is stuck with a 28% interest rate. The average family pays close to a million dollars in their lifetime for having bad credit. [By] having good credit, you're going to save hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is super important to have good credit. Super important.

M: How do you achieve that? What are three important things a person should do to build a good credit score?

EL: The top one would be applying for a secured credit card. The person puts a deposit of $200 and they'll automatically qualify for a credit card. That card will be reported on the credit bureaus, and help them establish their credit. 

Number two, if they're renting, we have a program called ‘Report my Rent’ to verify that they are paying rent retroactively [for] up to two years to establish credit. That increases their credit score tremendously because it's like paying a mortgage.

Third–if you have family or friends that have credit cards, ask them to add you as a co-borrower or authorized user. You don’t have to use the credit card, but that would improve your credit by taking advantage of the person's good credit. It is true that only [your] family will do that for you. But that's a way to help people out with building good credit.

M: As a migrant, there many things you need, even some expenses you didn’t foresee. What is your advice for managing debt?

EL: One of the very first things that I would try is to educate [yourself] on not getting into too much debt. Many credit cards have too high of an interest rate, 28%. [You] might be happy for having a credit card, but at 28% interest, you'll never be able to finish paying off. Also, hold off on getting a loan to buy a car until you have your home. That payment on the car really affects you negatively when you go to buy a house. Use your debit cards, don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. If your neighbor gets a pool, maybe you don’t need a pool. Try to keep some savings. Don’t live paycheck to paycheck. Stay out of debt as much as possible. 

M: Even with the best financial planning, or because of unforeseen circumstances (such as the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic), you might end up being unable to pay your mortgage or other debts. What would be your advice under such circumstances?

EL: If you can't pay for some reason, I recommend contacting the service provider, and they'll let you know what they have available for you. Call them! When you ignore the problem, it gets worse. If you call them and they give you arrangements to pay, that's going to even help you because they won't show a negative on your credit report. So to answer your question, reach out to the bank, reach out to the servicer to see if they can help you. They may have some kind of program for you.

M: Growing up in a household where your parents were migrants, how has that impacted how you want to help your community now?

Every migrant, every person that comes to this country has a tremendous opportunity to do whatever they want in life, to go wherever they want to go and reach their goals. You just got to want to do it. If the person comes here thinking that this country is going to give them something that they didn't have, that's not the case. You’ve got to give something to the country before the country can give you something. And the opportunity is here now. There's no doubt about it. I thank the Lord every day that I live here in the United States.

Ready to take the first step towards a better financial future? Legra Realty Corp is here to help along the way. And the best part is MAJORITY members have access to exclusive discounts, including a $750 closing cost credit, 50% off initial credit restoration fees, and many others.

To learn more, visit the Legra Realty Corp discount page.

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