Other than driving thru those states, I have no experience with them. I do, however, want to congratulate you on your upcoming retirement and also for being debt-free. The latter sure helps the former be more enjoyable. You are wise to also consider quality health care as part of your criteria. Best of luck to you!
I spoke to a few real estate agents that sell homes in DE. They said that money out of NY and Northern NJ has been flooding into DE since the start of COVID and it is wreaking havoc on the real estate market for locals. They are used to retirees from these areas moving into DE, but retirees tend to be more conservative when it comes to how much they will spend, preferring to invest surplus gains from the sale of their homes. They are not used to so many telecommuters from these areas competing for local properties. I pray that companies in high cost areas come to their senses and bring people back into the office because it is having unwanted side effects; however, I am not holding my breath.
That being said, anyone who is thinking of moving to a lower cost area because they can work remotely should be aware of the fact that any job that can be performed remotely can be sent offshore. If you think you cannot be replaced by an offshore worker, I would holster that idea. Thousands of computer scientists and engineers felt the same way until the back-to-back dot-com/telecom meltdowns occurred in 2000 an 2001. I was fortunate to land on my feet, but many of my peers were not so lucky. There is a reason why there are so few practicing computer scientists and engineers over the age of 40 and it is not because they all went into management. Offshoring combined with H-1B on-shoring of labor resulted in a lot off carnage in the technical workforce. The most secure positions are those that require in-person performance.