Different sizes of rural property in real estate

The region around the Roodeplaat Dam – situated a mere 25 kilometres from Pretoria’s Church Square – used to be a peri-urban area that existed mainly of farmland. Although it was popularly known as Roodeplaat, it consisted of several of the original farms, eventually becoming “suburbs” such as Kameeldrift, Leeuwfontein, Kameelfontein, Derdepoort, Rynoue, Zeekoegat, Pumulani and Buffelsdrift.

By the time the first democratic local elections were held in South Africa in 2001, the Roodeplaat area became part of the newly formed Nokeng tsa Taemane Municipality, which included Rayton, Cullinan and a vast rural area towards the north east of the Metropolitan City of Tshwane.

Now under the administration of a municipality, plus the Gauteng Government’s announcement of developing a big five game reserve and tourism destination in this specific area, it was as if everyone started to see the possibilities for development.

Although the land in the Roodeplaat area was at this stage still zoned “agricultural”, owners soon started to subdivide their farmland into different size smallholdings and selling them off. Guest houses and tourism facilities started to jump up like mushrooms, with visitors more than happy to enjoy the rural Bushveld atmosphere of the Roodeplaat area.

Once the Nokeng municipality was dissolved and taken up into the City of Tshwane in 2011, with the promise of faster and more effective service delivery by the big administration it was now part of, the popular concept of security estates started to abound. Finally, frustrated developers could start to move!

Today the Roodeplaat area is a mixture of farmland, smallholdings (the smallest being one hectare), up-market security estates and walled-in housing developments.

Estate agents working in this area have felt the need for the different size properties to be explained:



The word farmland refers to all agricultural land, cultivable land, arable land of a country, whether it is used for these purposes or not.

Agricultural land

This is land zoned for agricultural purposes by an authority such as a municipality.

Agricultural land is devoted to agriculture – unlike farmland that has the potential for being used for agriculture.

Agriculture is the systematic and controlled production of crops and the rearing of livestock to produce food for humans.


A farm is an area of land that is suitable for farming and is zoned for agricultural use. It includes the farmhouse and agricultural buildings.

A piece of land of 21 hectares and bigger is generally considered to be a farm. Small farms are mainly found in rural areas where families are often subsistence farmers – feeding their families off the land and selling any surplus to local markets.

On big farms – nowadays often highly mechanised – farmers tend to specialise in crops or livestock best suited to the region e.g. vegetables, fruit, dairy, pig, poultry, maize, wheat, biofuel and plantations. There are even wind farms and fish farms. The produce and finished products are either exported, or sold to retail markets or for further processing, to the benefit of the economics of the country.


Smallholdings are created when farms in close proximity to built-up areas are subdivided into smaller portions, often due to the natural need for expansion by towns and cities.

A property is classified as a smallholding from one hectare in size, up to a maximum of twenty hectares. The closer to built-up areas, the smaller the smallholdings.

The word smallholding refers to property which is NOT a farm that is cultivated or used exclusively for agricultural purposes. Rather, it is property which caters for single family homes on land which is bigger than residential property, but smaller than a farm.

In more affluent societies, smallholdings are valued primarily for the rural lifestyle that they provide for the owners, who usually do not earn their livelihood from it. But in third world countries, smallholdings are usually considered to be small farms that support single families, doing subsistence farming with a mixture of cash crops.


The term “portion” refers to a parcel of land which is legally cut off from a bigger piece of land, defined on its own as a property. The bigger piece is then called the remainder.

Subdivision of farms and properties is a time consuming and often expensive course of action which requires the assistance of professional people.

Almost the whole of the Roodeplaat area is still zoned as agricultural land. Should a developer therefore wish to obtain a smallholding in order to do property development, rezoning of the land use needs to be done first.


The word “erf” (plural: erven) originates from Dutch/Flemish and is only used in Southern Africa. It describes a piece of land – usually urban – which is registered in the deeds registry as an erf, a lot, plot or stand, marked off for building purposes.


In real estate a plot/lot is a piece of empty land, of which the boundaries have been documented, but are not necessarily shown on the land itself. A pavement or similar improvement might have been done. It is generally used for a specific purpose (e.g. a garden plot or parking lot) and is owned by a person or another legal entity. Many developers divide a large tract of land into lots as a subdivision

Vacant Land

It is self explanatory. It is a small holding, sectional title, farm or residential property which has not been developed. What this means is that a house or improvements have not been constructed on the land.


Types of measure units and conversion in real estate

Measure units originated from Europe and were used in South Africa from early days up to the stage when South Africa implemented the metric system. The following is an indication of conversion of units or length.


Units of length

meters inches English feet yards chains miles Cape feet Cape roods
1 39.370113 3.2808427 1.0396142 0.0497097 0.0000158 3.1760339 0.2646695
                                  1 chain=100 links           1link=0.66ft=7.92inches


Units of area

Sq meters hectares Sq feet Sq yards Acres Sq miles Cape Sq feet Cape Sq roods Morgen
10,000 1 10763.9 11959.9 2.471052 0.003861 100871.91 700.4994 1.167499
1 acre=10 sq chains=4 roods  1 rood= 40 perches=10890 sq feet   1sq mile=2.58999km²

1 acre=100sq meters                                                                    100 acres=1 hectare

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