The New Closers: Why CBRE's Aron Will Is One Of Commercial Real Estate's Next Market Leaders
Where there's a Will, there's a way.
At only 32, the Houston-born Will boasts an impressive résumé. He is the youngest vice chairman in CBRE's history and has led his team to originate more than $2.6B in senior housing debt across the country in the last two years.
"Aron is one of our best strategic thinkers [and] his work ethic is second to none. He is constantly thinking about his clients and that really permeates through all of Aron's team," said Cody Armbrister, CBRE senior managing director and a member of Will's senior housing squad. Armbrister has known Will for roughly 10 years.
In addition to a solid résumé, Will boasts an admirable dedication to his community. He serves as a board member for the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance and co-founder of its young professionals group.
Feeding A Passion For Real Estate
Will's real estate journey began at a young age when his interest was piqued during dinnertime discussions with his family.
“My mom was a commercial real estate developer and operator and has been for 40 years. So I kind of got the bug for real estate at the dinner table. I found myself staying in conversations 15 [to] 30 minutes longer [while] talking about the field with my mom,” Will said.
After graduating from Southern Methodist University as a BBA Scholar, Will quickly made a name for himself by identifying an opportunity for a niche market and subsequently launching the Senior Housing Debt practice for CBRE.
“We had 35 offices domestically with the company [at the time], but we didn’t have a single professional within our debt platform that was intently focused on [the senior housing debt] section of real estate,” Will said.
Starting the practice was no easy feat, even with the prior knowledge he had received from his mother — such as which players to target and which industry associations the group would need to affiliate itself with.
“I was wearing a lot of hats [and] working close to 100 hours a week when we started this up," he said. "I was doing the analytics, the marketing packages, including the business development so that was an incredible learning experience for me,” Will said.
Making Time To Give Back
Fast-forward to the present day and that hard work has clearly paid off. In 2016, the team was named Fannie Mae’s No. 1 senior housing originator in the U.S. and in the last 10 years Will's team has succeeded in closing more than $6.8B in debt and equity for the senior housing sector.
Still, the commitment to the team and his work has not been without challenges.
“We’re all younger guys with young families and that’s been the sacrifice that we’ve made, still working 65 hours a week. Certainly that’s been challenging on the home front and otherwise. But with the business and market opportunity we’ve been incredibly fortunate,” Will said.
It is an account Armbrister knows to be true. Reiterating Will's strong work ethic, he said it is not uncommon to find Will and his team in the office on a Sunday.
"But even when he's not here, Aron is always thinking about his clients. He's all about working relationships and understanding what people need and being there for them at any time of the day," Armbrister said.
Even with his dedication to work and family, Will still manages to find time to volunteer and sit on the board of six different organizations, including the American Seniors Housing Association, Urban Land Institute, National Investment Center for the Senior Housing and Care Industry, Greater Houston Community Foundation and Harris County MUD District 514.
However, it is the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance, where he now serves as president of the board, that has remained particularly close to his heart as his mother’s sister passed away from the disease.
"Aron is more than an accomplished fundraiser and community awareness advocate. Over the years he has exhibited not only compassion and empathy for the children and families we serve, but has brought a business perspective to his leadership role. He truly makes a difference to the [organization]," Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance Executive Director Gay Foust said.
The organization benefits families of children being treated for cancer at the Texas Medical Center by providing help in everything from practice support and consultations to parking and sending kids to camp for a weekend.
“I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t been a lot of work, but it’s something I’m really passionate about. I love the organization and that’s one that in some capacity I’ll be involved with perhaps indefinitely,” Will said.
While his greatest achievements include starting a flourishing business line at a young age within a large company, in a personal context, Will said his biggest accomplishment to date is his family.
“I love them to death, my wife and daughter," he said. "And we’re very close to our immediate family. That’s something I’m very proud of."