The first time I heard about escrow is on ActiveRain.
I'm a chartered real estate agent from Quebec, here the «notary» does the part of a lawyer and of an escrow.
Well what is a Notary anyway??? http://www.wordreference.com/definition/notary « someone legally empowered to witness signatures and certify a document's validity and to take depositions » Real Estate Dictionary: Notary Public «An officer who is authorized to take Acknowledgments to certain types of documents, such as Deeds, Contracts and Mortgages and before whom Affidavits may be sworn.» And keep In-Trust account form real estate transactions.
The deposit, balance of cash and mortgage are deposited in a In-trust account in the Notary's name, after all documents will be signed by the vendors and the buyers, bank too if mortgage is applicable, then registered with at the provincial (State) Office, once registered the money is transferred to the vendors.
In Quebec, a lawyer cannot complete the sale of a property, only the notary can do that. How does it work in your area?
To find out more on notaries in Quebec go to there web site http://www.cdnq.org/en/papersPlease/