3 Serious Reasons NOT to Zillow Sanibel

With the help of their big-buck advertising budget, Zillow has become synonymous with online home searching. Zillow delivers a great website and search experience that wins home searchers’ trust and loyalty. However, if you Zillow Sanibel without using other resources to aid your island home search, you may be making a serious mistake. I’m not a Zillow-hater, in fact, we advertise on Zillow and some of our clients are folks that started by using Zillow on Sanibel. But these home searchers are often mis-informed with stale listings, inaccurate ‘Zestimates™’, and most importantly – missing homes!

Zillow Sanibel


Zillow Sanibel Zestimate™ Accuracy

Most of you know that Zillow’s Zestimate™ is simply a computer based estimate and has a margin of error. What most people don’t understand is how wrong Zestimates™ can be on Sanibel.

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. Zillow knows this, but also knows that consumers love the idea of a “Zestimate™,” even if they have no idea how inaccurate it can be. In reality, Zillow Sanibel Zestimates™ may be even more misleading than average, since finding comparable homes is challenging in our specialized marketplace.

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

  • 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)

Zillow Sanibel 2

Let’s apply these percentages to the average sales price on Sanibel to see in real dollars what these errors mean for the average Sanibel purchase:

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 over $170,000, 18% of the time for an average Sanibel sale. This is huge.

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 clients. Below are the results for our first four sales in March 2016.


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



The Zestimates™ for these homes are so inaccurate that they only confuse home buyers. I feel that Zillow is breaking their public trust by publishing such inaccurate data. In my opinion, Sanibel home buyers and sellers that review Zestimates™ are being seriously misinformed.

It Gets Even Worse…

Zillow also provides a “Zestimate™ Range.” One of our clients told me that she used the ‘Range’  to get a feel for neighborhood values, and not so much for a specific property. This sounds reasonable, but the Zestimate™ Range can still be way off.

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 the last four homes we 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

You May Miss Your Ideal Home Using Zillow on Sanibel

Ok, so maybe you ignore the Zestimate™ and the Zestimate™ Range, Zillow still provides a great property search, right?

Well, if you are casually checking out the market, then it may be OK. But Zillow is missing a number of homes that are for sale, and some of the current information is stale.

If you are serious about finding a home, you may miss out. You see, Zillow does NOT have the same information as Realtors and the MLS. I spent a few minutes checking out listings available on Zillow with our site, www.SanibelRealEstateGuide.com (which has ALL homes for sale in Sanibel and Captiva Islands MLS). I found listings on our site that were not on Zillow.

As you can see below, if you only used Zillow when searching for homes on Sanibel, you would miss out on these two great Sanibel properties, and possibly miss the best deal for you!

Zillow Sanibel 7

Zillow Sanibel 8

Final Thoughts…

My goal is not to stop you from using Zillow if you like it, but instead brought to mind a few important factors to be aware of when you Zillow Sanibel. I think it’s great to use multiple resources when searching for your perfect piece of paradise, however, I want our customers to know that not everything they see on Zillow is “the end all be all” as they say. If you are serious about finding a home, other sites may be a better resource.

That’s the benefit of working with a Realtor® or searching on our website! We have total MLS access and the ability to provide you with the most accurate, up-to-date and relevant information to help find you the best deal and property here on Sanibel and Captiva. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns you have about your home search!

Jim McCallion About Jim McCallion

Meet the "Marketing Megaphone" and Webmaster behind McCallion & McCallion. After selling his software company, Jim, Susan and kids moved to Sanibel in 2008. With his tech experience, he and Susan bring a fresh approach to island real estate.