Solly Assa is a New York-based businessman with a long-term commitment to the real estate industry. He is founder and developer of Assa Properties, a company founded in 2000 involved in the business of developing and investing in major residential, retail and commercial properties. He considers himself as an “opportunistic owner” and believes that the thing at which he excels is finding the best possible location to position his asset in order to capture the market. Armed with years of experience and in-depth knowledge, with every project that he does, he aims to set the bar higher and change the old-fashioned, conventional method of property development. So far he has successfully managed to identify and capitalize on development opportunities, using his acquired skills and knowing of the market. After years of hard work and dedication, finally, in 2000, Solly Assa got the chance to realize one of his biggest dreams and start his own company. Since then, Assa Properties has acquired over 3 million square feet of assets spread across the United States and Mexico.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
The first thing that drew me into real estate development was having the opportunity to choose from its broad categories and endless options that can go as far as one’s imagination. For me, it has never been about fitting in, but quite the contrary, from the very start I was driven by the idea of making a change, creating something different and making a big statement that is going to stand out from everything else that already exists.
How do you make money?
So far I’ve been fortunate enough to make earnings from my company’s portfolio. Basically, that means I make money by selling properties developed by my company for a price that is higher than the cost of acquisition of the land and construction, which means making a profit. Unlike many other markets, in the real estate market, you simply can’t succeed by purchasing a property today and selling it tomorrow, because that is not how this market world. Thanks to my experience and knowledge of the market, now I’m able to make smart decisions on when to buy properties below market value. I guess my management skills have also played a big role in creating appropriate investment plan before jumping into the process.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
I have been working in the real estate field for quite a long time, and during that time I had the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons which made me realize that real estate is not a short-term business and you will never make a career out of it by seeing it as such. I invested a lot of time and effort in order to capitalize on development opportunities, but once Assa Properties was established, I started developing and investing in major residential, retail and commercial properties and finally reap the fruits of my labor. Since 2000, I have acquired around 3 million square feet of assets, and from 2002 I have also acquired buildings in New York City.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Being a businessman or entrepreneur comes with certain risks, therefore there is always a bit of doubt. In fact, until this very day, with every new project that I undertake, I can’t help but wonder if it is up to the challenge, whether it will be profitable, could I have done more. In real estate development, there is always a sense of doubt, especially if you’re in charge of things like in my case and you also have to think and worry about all of the people working in your company which adds up to the stress. But if you’re confident and believe in yourself you can redirect that fear and use it to fuel your passion. In the end what matters the most is how you manage different challenges and whether or not you can handle failure because there is no gain without any risk.
How did you get your first customer?
For Assa Properties’ biggest project Cassa, a residential condominium-hotel combination in Midtown, I had no trouble finding affluent buyers who desire enormous homes because I was able to predict the way that people were going to combine certain apartments. Buyers enjoy their liberty to alter a floor plan to create a large apartment. Since this project was designed to accommodate the combined duplexes and triplexes, and of course has an ideal location just one block from Times Square, most of the residential units were quickly sold out.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
In my experience, forging strong, long-lasting clients’ relationships is a proven strategy because the personal interaction is the vital part of ensuring that every client’s need is met and addressed, and my team can rest assured that we have obtained the best-suited property, regardless whether it is commercial or residential. In the real estate market, you simply can’t thrive by purchasing a property today and selling it tomorrow, which is why buying a property and waiting for its value to increase on the market is another strategy that I often like to implement.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
My ultimate mission is to create the best product possible and that means coming up with the best location and position for the asset, which quite honestly isn’t an easy task. In the last few months, I’ve been constantly dealing with location related issues because I always strive for perfection, and I don’t settle for anything less than that. The projects that we’re currently working on are being developed in New York City’s most distinctive neighborhoods, and to be able to capture the desired locations you should have industry experience and a lasting reputation. Fortunately, so far I have had success in spotting great real estate opportunities and I hope that I will continue to present my clients with the ideal properties and jeep their trust.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Knowing the market and figuring out how and when to buy properties below their market value is not only a key element for real estate investing, but it is also one of the most important things that set you apart and makes you successful in this field. The real estate industry is highly competitive and if you want to write your own success story you need to have your own vision. Since the founding of Assa Properties, my vision has always been building luxury residential condominium-hotel experiences in New York City’s most distinctive neighborhoods. By staying focused I’ve managed to achieve my final goal.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
Throughout my career, I have had many satisfying moments, but if I had to pick one out, I would say it was starting my own company Assa Properties in 2000. For many years that was my biggest dream and driving force. Of course, later on, I had many successful moments like developing the 48-story project called Cassa.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
During the past few years, the Northeast market has quite improved, which means it has been less challenging compared with just a few years ago. My future plans for the company is to make it even more prosperous now that people have regained confidence and are willing to buy again. Expanding the company’s portfolio is also part of my plan, and for start, I’m planning to achieve that through joint ventures, even though as always, we will stay open and welcome new opportunities.
What business books have inspired you?
Every day, or at least every week, I try to read some new piece of article, journal or book, in order to update mu knowledge and stay current with the latest advancements and improvements in the field. If you want to make a career in real estate, you need to be extremely focused, passionate, and ready to spend a lot of time reading and constantly learning new things about this fast-evolving industry.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
The latest purchase that my company made was a pair of Midtown buildings at auction. It is two adjoining buildings 9,299 square feet in total, with 10 residential units and one commercial unit.As the owner of Cassa Hotel and Residences, Assa Properties sold the hotel portion of the property to a Beijing, headquartered company after agreeing that owners and extended stay guests would still benefit from all of the hotel’s amenities and services.
After years of working in this industry do you personally recommend it as a career choice?
As I mentioned previously, real estate is a really unique field where things change quickly, and that requires keeping up with everything and everyone. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to everyone, but probably only ti those who are determined to succeed, possess management skills and most importantly will to continually upgrade themselves.