How Zillow Misleads Sanibel Home Sellers

Many homeowners on Sanibel Island like to Zillow their home before putting it on the market, to see how much it’s worth compared to other homes on the island. While this can be a useful way to see what’s currently on the market and what homes have sold for in the past, we should warn you that Zillow is not the best way to determine your own home’s market value.


Why Can’t Sanibel Home Sellers Trust Zillow?

Because Zillow’s data is faulted with stale listings, inaccurate ‘Zestimates™’, and most importantly – missing homes!

Most people understand that Zillow’s Zestimate™ is simply a computer calculated estimate that has a certain margin of error. But, what some people don’t understand is how wrong Zestimates™ can be on Sanibel.

You see, there’s no way for Zillow to calculate a home’s current condition, amazing view, or recent upgrades in order to give an accurate home value. The only information Zillow has is what’s found in public records, they don’t know that you might have updated the kitchen and bathrooms two years ago, or that your Sanibel condo has an amazing Gulf view from the lanai.

How This Affects Sanibel Island

Since Sanibel Island is a very specialized market place, there are a number of factors that go into a home’s market value, which Zillow will never be able to account for. In fact, Zillow knows that their Zestimates™ are inaccurate, but they also know how much consumers love the idea of a Zestimate™, regardless of accuracy.

Interestingly, the company provides some insight on their Zestimate’s™ accuracy at the county level. For Lee County (where Sanibel Island is located), Zillow states that:

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  • 66% of the time, Zillow is more than 5% off
  • 41.4% of the time, Zillow is more than 10% off
  • 18% of the time, Zillow is more than 20% off
  • All of which have a margin of error of 8% on top of that!
    *Lee County Zestimate™ Accuracy (as per Zillow 5/15/2016)

Now, let’s apply these percentages to the average sales price on Sanibel, so that we can see what this margin of error looks like in real dollars.

Average Sanibel Sales Price for 2016 Q1 of $857,659

Zestimate™ Error
(as per Zillow)

 How Often
(in Lee County)

$ Amount
(using Sanibel’s Avg Sale)

More than 5%



More than 10%



More than 20%




Using Zillow’s own numbers, the Zestimate™ will be wrong by more than $170,000, 18% of the time for an average Sanibel sale. This should be a major “Red Flag” for Sanibel Home Sellers!


How Did Zillow Actually Do for Our Clients?

The numbers above are based on Sanibel averages. However, I wanted to see how Zillow stacked up for our own Sanibel Home Sellers. Below are the results for our first four sales in March of this year.


Zestimate™ Error

$ Amount

1113 Sand Castle Road
Sanibel, FL



1605 Middle Gulf Drive #317
Sanibel, FL



3131 W Gulf Drive #306
Sanibel, FL



585 E Gulf Drive A2
Sanibel, FL




As you can see, the estimates were off a much as $200k under and $500k over the properties final sales price! The Zestimates™ for these homes are so inaccurate that they only confuse home buyers and sellers.

Now you see why I feel that Sanibel home sellers and buyers who review Zestimates™ are being seriously misinformed!

It Gets Even Worse…

Zillow also provides a “Zestimate™ Range.” One of our clients mentioned she used this range to get a feel for her Sanibel neighborhood’s home values. While using the range for this type of research can be helpful, I’ve found that the Zestimate™ Range can also be way off from what I’ve seen certain neighborhood homes sell for.

From my experience, the Zillow Sanibel Zestimate™ Range averaged about 25% of the home’s selling price. So, for a $800,000 home, the Zestimate™ Range would span $200,000. This is a large margin, so large that it doesn’t provide any real value to the consumer in the end. But even with this large range and margin for error, sometimes Zillow still misses the mark completely!

Below, I’ve illustrated the Zestimate™, Zestimate™ Range, and Actual Sales price for four homes that we’ve sold on Sanibel.

1605 Middle Gulf Drive, #317

Zillow Sanibel 3

3131 West Gulf Drive, #306

Zillow Sanibel 4

585 East Gulf Drive, #A2

Zillow Sanibel 5

1340 Middle Gulf Drive, #6B

Zillow Sanibel 6

As you can see, sometimes the range is way over or under the actual sales price of the home. I can understand if this happened occasionally, but I’ve found of a number of Zillow inaccuracies in the couple month’s time frame that I reviewed.

To Clairify, I’m Not A Zillow-Hater

My point here was not to bash Zillow. In fact, we use and advertise on the platform ourselves. We think the site is a good resource for Sanibel home sellers and buyers, but that you should be aware of its flaws. Put simply, Zillow can not and will not ever be able to provide as accurate of information as a local Realtor® can provide.

So, if you’d like to check the accuracies of your Zillow Zestimate, feel free to email Susan or myself. We’d be happy to talk to you about your home’s updates and current condition to be able to give you an accurate assessments of your Sanibel home’s value.

Click here to email Jim & Susan McCallion.