Blog: Leveraging UiPath to find your next home to rent
Living in the beautiful Milan, Italy. I am actively looking for a new apartment to rent.
It’s quite interesting how one of the most basic features for someone who is looking for a house isn’t available on most Italian real estate websites.
The feature I am referring to is “House available starting by..”.
To put it simply, I am looking for a house starting from October 2019, not before. And yet this simple feature is not on the most popular house renting websites.
While one option is to manually open the apartments descriptions, look inside and find out when the house would have been available for renting, the other option was way more appealing to me. Create a scraper that would automatically find out and dump the results to an excel file.
There are several ways to do this, such as:
- Create a web crawler the old fashioned way (Crawler4j , scrapy, BeautifulSoup..)
- Leverage tools such as WatchMe (https://github.com/vsoch/watchme)
I was curious about how I could leverage UiPath to solve this simple problem, since the recent booming in interest for robotic process automation I wanted to jump on the hype train and have some fun. Here’s my take.
The first thing I did was to look closely at how the data is structured. Usually real estate websites are structured as a listing of apartments consisting of the price, a short description and the location.
The information I needed was inside the description. However, the description was often truncated when it exceeded the characters limit. So the only way to find the information was to actually open the page and search for the information within the extended description.
Having a clear understanding of what I had to do, I setup the following steps:
- Open up the web browser on the website containing the apartments listings
- Using the data scraping module, find the URLs of all the listings
- Save all of the URLs in a DataTable.
- Loop through the DataTable.
- For each URL, open chrome to said website, seek for the extended description and store it to a variable.
- Extract the information from the just stored variable by using simple queries.
- Save all the results to an excel file.
The overall process was quite simple to implement, there are several online tutorials on how to scrape web pages and the official documentation for UiPath is excellent.
I managed to easily find many apartments that were available starting from the date I wanted. But as I am writing this article I am still on the look.
Coming from a strong software engineering background, using UiPath was quite simple and the visual editor is quite enjoyable to use.
Here are my main takeaways:
- I chose UiPath because the community edition was available for free. Having a community edition is a great way to spread the word about a product.
- UiPath visual editor is quite intuitive and easy to understand. Automating your first process is quite fast.
- Great online documentation is always welcome when approaching a software for the first time.
- It would be great if UiPath extended to more programming languages the “scripting” part of the tool. VB.NET is great but…