A young Wilmington family’s search for the perfect new home has landed them in an episode of HGTV’s popular House Hunters program, airing next week.
The Farinas – mom Jess, dad Matt and their children Kiley, 5 and Kamden, 2 – and their quest for the right real estate to accommodate their active lifestyle will be featured in Monday night’s 8:30 pm episode, “Going Long in Wilmington.”
The show’s website teases the segment this way:
“A family of big sports fans is hoping to find a new home in Wilmington, Delaware. He’s focused on a new build with high ceilings and a big yard where he can play catch. But she prefers an older colonial with a relaxing tub to soak in after long work days.”
House Hunters was regular TV fare in the Farina household before the family’s big national debut. Jess and Matt’s mother would often take in an episode or two each day after Jess returned from work to their 4-bedroom split-level Claymont home. When Jess and Matt decided last summer that they wanted to make the move to “their forever home,” Matt decided to surprise Jess by applying to be on the show.
They were selected by producers after what Matt calls “a pretty grueling interview process,” which included making a video, submitting letters, and participating in conference calls.
At first, they were deemed “too picture perfect – basically too nice,” said Matt, an energetic PE teacher at Mt. Pleasant Elementary School (and the 2013 Delaware PE teacher of the Year). “Apparently the show does better when spouses battle over the properties.”
So the Farinas had to submit a list of things they disagreed on in their search for their “forever home.”
“It was tough because Jess and I get along so well,” said Matt, a Wilmington native and Salesianum School grad. Jess, who grew up in Newark and attended Glasgow High School and UD, is an insurance claims supervisor.
“Finding differences between us wasn’t easy,” said Jess. “It kind of pushed us to actually figure out what we really cared about in the home buying process.”
One thing that helped convince producers to choose the Wilmington couple was that their realtor — Meredith Rosenthal, of the Mottola Group of Long and Foster — was a life-long friend of Matt’s. Apparently, that’s rare for the show, which appreciated the chemistry among the three house hunters.
It was House Hunters who decided that the Farinas would look at homes in Greenville, Townsend and North Wilmington. The location they settled on is under lock and key until the show airs Monday night.
Without giving too much away, the Farina’s said a lot more of the program is scripted than most viewers would imagine. “We were a little naive to the process. It was different on TV than we originally imagined,” said Matt.
For a 22-minute show, producers filmed the Farinas for 8 hours a day over an entire week. “So you really have to commit to it,” said Jess.
Knowing that Matt Farina is a big baseball fan and former college player, the producers decided it would be fun to shoot a scene at the Wilmington Blue Rocks Stadium.
“My friend Kevin Linton came over and opened up the stadium for us. So while we’re throwing a baseball at Blue Rocks stadium, we’re talking about what we’re looking for in homes, and what our aspirations are.” All of the filming wasn’t easy for the pair. “I found out I was a terrible actor,” said Matt.
Curiously, producers did not ask the Farinas for advice about where to shoot the “B roll” about Wilmington. Apparently they have a crack team that does their research when they visit a new town. “They spent an entire day all around Wilmington filming statues, monuments, waterways and the Riverfront,” said Matt. “But they didn’t tell us exactly what they would be filming. So this will be a surprise for us on Monday night,” said Jess.
Jess wanted a big kitchen, nice master bathroom and lots more space. Matt wanted a big yard, a safe feeling, and an open floor plan.
The yard (and sometimes lack thereof) ends up becoming the big sticking point. In the end, it seems Matt comes around to Jess’ perspective. “I gave into her big time! But this was our fist big decision, and we wanted to make it together. Watching Jess walk into the home that we chose was just amazing, it was beautiful. It was like a love at first sight kind of thing,” said Matt.
The Farinas say they are thrilled the episode will be a keepsake for their children. “We thought it would be a neat way for them to look back on that time in their lives. And it was honestly a fun experience for the two of us,” said Jess.
Matt even found romantic symbolism in the house hunting process. “I always say to Jess that she’s my fairytale and my love story. And this is kind of like documentation to be able to have the memory of buying our forever home.”
Tune in Monday night to see where they landed.