Sonny Lykos has graciously sent me a document that is a worthy resource for any renovator or residential contractor. "The Process" is provided to homeowners after the initial inquiry -- and establishes the guidelines for the working relationship including the fact that there are "no free estimates".
Yes, you can get a ballpark idea of the project's scope and an idea of whether the planned work will be within your budget -- but if you want anything detailed, or serious, you'll need to agree to have a Specification and Cost Analysis (SCA) and pay for it (cost to be applied to the total project if you go ahead with the work).
The multi-page document also addresses scheduling, change orders and the problems and issues that can occur during any project. Most importantly, it outlines in a straightforward manner, the actual process -- step by step.
This document has several advantages. First, it helps to build trust between the contractor and the homeowner. You don't need to worry about crucial unanswered questions. Second, it pre-empts bidding games and (to some extent) "low bid wins the job" competition -- if you want to get serious with Lykos' organization, and receive a meaningful quote, you are going to need to commit (and pay for) the SCA. Finally, it actually simplifies and stabilizes the relationship between the homeowner and contractor, right from the start.
Sonny has graciously allowed me to post this document in full and encourages you to use it yourself, modifying the wording to suit your own business practices. It is a great tool, one that I think belongs in your business systems and practices. (If you are a commercially oriented contractor, you might want to devise something similar if you are dealing with clients who are not sophisticated about construction processes -- or even if they are, that shows you have clearly defined procedures and methods of operation. I think it will help your clients feel confident in your abilities -- and thus free you to a significant degree from commodity pricing struggles.)
Editor's note: Following this posting, Sonny Lykos emailed me regarding the photo caption reference to Overbuilders in Denver: Lykos wrote: "That's my 'The Process'. I sent it to him many months ago, and he did a great job of modifying it to his operation and talents."