The LA Times has an article today on the shrinking ranks of real estate agents. The number of agents tends to rise and fall with the housing sector’s health, but the LA Times explores whether this time the ranks will recover with the market. Much of the information once controlled by agents is now available on the Internet, and the industry has come under greater scrutiny by consumers and regulators lately. But agents say there’s no substitute for a good advocate — it’s those who fail to meet that standard who will be weeded out.

From The LA Times:

Realtors may soon go the way of travel agents. Already weakened by the sour housing market, the profession faces increasing challenges from Internet-based services that help people save thousands on a home purchase.

The number of agents typically declines in a housing slump and rebounds when the market recovers. But this time, “when we see an upturn in the cycle, any recovery in the ranks of residential real estate brokers will be limited by a reduced need for their services,” said Stuart Gabriel, director of UCLA’s Ziman Center for Real Estate.

“The real estate brokerage industry is not going away, but the combination of efficiency gains via the Internet and the cyclical downturn will both be significant forces to their rapidly shrinking ranks,” Gabriel said.

The National Assn. of Realtors reports a 13% drop in membership since 2006.

Read More: The LA Times