The number of borrowers who had just begun falling behind on their mortgages waned as last year ended, but a record 15 percent of homeowners were delinquent on their mortgages, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Friday in releasing its delinquency report for the fourth quarter.

New York state continued to be less affected by the foreclosure crisis than most states, with 3.4 of borrowers one month late and 13.7 percent behind, including those in the foreclosure or loan modification processes, according to the report, which covers more than 44 million mortgages in one-to-four-unit buildings, including 2 million in the state.

Nationwide, about 3.6 percent of borrowers were one month late, down from 3.8 percent the preceding quarter and 3.9 percent a year ago, the association said.

The group’s chief economist, Jay Brinkmann, said those drops were impressive considering that new delinquencies usually rise at the end of the year as homeowners face higher heating and holiday bills.

“We are likely seeing the beginning of the end of the unprecedented wave of mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures that started with the subprime defaults in early 2007,” he said.

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Home prices and property values have been shriveling during the foreclosure crisis, leading to mass budget problems in government and a lot of homeowners owing lenders more than their homes are worth.

But Brinkmann was uncertain about the impact of fewer new delinquency cases on home values because of the other half of the numbers picture – the 15 percent delinquency rate was a record buster since the group began keeping reliable records in 1979. That rate is a jump from 14.4 percent in the third quarter and 11.9 percent a year ago, figures show.